In a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Ben Collins, a senior reporter with NBC News, minced no words about the impact online comments against LGBTQ Americans have been having. The latest example is the shooting deaths of five and the injuries of 19 people at a Colorado Springs nightclub late Saturday night.
Collins started by asking host Joe Scarborough the rhetorical question: “Am I doing something wrong here?” And he then began reading the headlines of some of his recent stories.
A few examples included: “Trans woman’s photo used to spread baseless online theory about Uvalde shooter,” published on May 25; “Doctors providing trans care are under increasing threat from far-right harassment campaigns,” published Oct. 27; and “Anti-LGBTQ threats, fueled by internet’s far-right ‘machine,’ shut down trans rights and drag events,” published on Aug. 17.
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Collins additionally mentioned headlines from some of his NBC News colleagues. Examples included “GOP senator targets TikTok influencer with anti-transgender taunt,” published on Oct. 25; “At least 20 Republican politicians have claimed that schools are making accommodations for students who identify as cats,” published on Oct. 14; and one that read, “Far-right figures appear to be testing Twitter’s boundaries for anti-LGBTQ speech,” published on Oct. 31.
All of which led Collins to ask, “What could I have done differently? As reporters, what can we do differently? Because there are five dead people in a strip mall because that was the only place they felt safe as gay and trans people in this town, in Colorado Springs.”
According to CNN, suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, allegedly walked into Club Q in Colorado Springs at 11:56 PM Saturday and opened fire, killing five people and injuring 19 others. Aldrich used an AR-style rifle and handgun and wore a military-style flak jacket during the shooting. Matthew Hanes, one of the club’s owners, told The New York Times that Aldrich came in with “tremendous firepower.”
“One customer took down the gunman and was assisted by another … He saved dozens and dozens of lives. Stopped the man cold. Everyone else was running away, and he ran toward him,” Haynes added.
Aldrich, who was arrested in June 2021 in connection with a bomb threat according to CNN, now faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of a hate crime.
Barely holding back tears, Collins went on to say about the massacre in Colorado Springs that the ongoing targeted comments about LGBTQ folks “have real-life impacts.” He added that in trying to “thread the needle” on the rhetoric, he was “going to fail” and ultimately “freak out” over the killings.
“I wake up and see that there are five dead bodies. But I think we have to have a come-to-Jesus moment here as reporters. Are we more afraid of being on Breitbart for saying that trans people deserve to be alive? Or are we more afraid of the dead people? Cause I’m more afraid of the dead people. I don’t want to wake up on a Sunday and see that all these headlines came to fruition,” Collins said.
Brandon Wolf, press secretary from Equality Florida and a Pulse nightclub survivor, appeared on MSNBC’s ReidOut with host Joy Reid and also fiercely called out “right-wing grifters” such as Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Greg Abbott for “spewing vile and hateful rhetoric about LGBTQ people,” and “trafficking in some of the oldest and darkest tropes about our community.”
Wolf added: “We warned them this would inevitably result in violence and they just couldn’t help themselves … and now five people went to a space that was supposed to be safe for them, a space like the one I knew well at Pulse nightclub, and they came out in body bags.”
We're now in the third week of election overtime and there is still tons more great news for Democrats to exult over on this week's episode of The Downballot.