Shame on ABC

November 26, 2004

Gay Anti-Violence Programs Decry ABC News Segment on Shepard Murder

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

The following is a release from our allies at the National Association of Anti-Violence Programs. We are forwarding it to you due the seriousness of ABC TV's transgression. We urge you to contact your local ABC affiliate to register your disgust. Direct action would also be an entirely appropriate response.

— Matt Foreman
Executive Director

Contact: Clarence Patton
(212) 714-1184 or (347) 683-0020
Jeffrey Montgomery
(313) 537-3323 or (313) 506-1847

Gay Anti-Violence Programs Decry ABC News Segment on Shepard Murder

Say 20/20 Segments Intent is To Malign Victim and Cause Pain for Family and Community

NEW YORK, November 26, 2004 — Responding to the airing of an ABC News 20/20 segment on the murder of Matthew Shepard, representatives of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) called the segment irresponsible, biased, shameful, and destructive.

The gist of the segment, which purports to uncover evidence and details not raised or discussed in the 1999 trial of Aaron McKinney, one of the two men accused of murdering Shepard, is that the murder was not hate-motivated, but instead motivated by drug use.

"The fact is that there is nothing significant in the 20/20 program that wasn't raised during the trial," said Clarence Patton, NCAVPs Acting Executive Director. "One has to question the motivation of the show's producers in not only attempting to engage in revisionist history, but in doing so at this point in time, as our nation's lesbian and gay community is fighting for its life to an extent not seen in years."

According to data gathered by NCAVP, anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender violence increased 26% nationally at the end of 2003, and has continued to rise throughout 2004.

"I was in Laramie after Matthew's murder, and at the trial his murderers acknowledged that they killed him because of his sexual orientation, and they in fact offered a homosexual panic defense," said Jeff Montgomery, NCAVPs Board Co-Chair.

The 20/20 segment focus is on the role the methamphetamine "Crystal Meth" played in the behavior of McKinney and Russell Henderson, Shepard's killers.

"That drugs may have played a role in a violent crime and in this murder is not news," said Patton. He continued, "Everyone knows that drugs and alcohol often play a part in hate crimes and bias-related incidents, as they do with most forms of violent crime - from domestic violence to rape and sexual assault to murder. Drug and alcohol use by perpetrators can fuel the intensity of the violence in an any one incident, increase the willingness of perpetrators to act out hateful impulses, or be used as a intentional motivator to carry out a planned attack."

"However, such brutal and severe violence and leaving someone to die tied to a fence is not a marker of drug-fueled violence; it is a marker of hate violence," added Montgomery.

"Had 20/20 actually wanted to do a fair and balanced story on this or any other anti-gay hate murder, they would have reached out to experts on anti-gay hate violence - they didn't; had they wanted to examine the impact or prevalence of drug use in violent crime or hate crimes, they would have reached out to criminal justice officials or hate violence victim advocates with expertise in those areas - they didn't; and those are only two among many factors in determining that the real goal of this story wasn't to unearth new information or even report additional context, but to malign the victim, mortify his family and inflict pain on the larger LGBT community that came to identify with Matthew, his life, and the fear that we all live with as a community under attack," concluded Patton.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs addresses the pervasive problem of violence committed against and within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive communities. NCAVP is a coalition of programs that document and advocate for victims of anti-LGBT and anti-HIV/AIDS violence/harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct and other forms of victimization. Further, NCAVP supports existing anti-violence organizations and emerging local programs in their efforts to document and prevent such violence.

PDF versions of the NCAVP's Report on Anti-LGBT Violence in 2003 are available at


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.