While police in Charleston, South Carolina, immediately identified the shootings there that killed nine members of a traditionally African-American church as a racially motivated hate crime, one major media organization — Fox News — just as quickly jumped in to question whether race had anything to do with the shootings.
If fact, Fox News' Fox and Friends anchor Steve Doocy called it "extraordinary" that police labeled the mass killing as a hate crime.
Instead, Fox News on Thursday morning aired a segment in which both the network's own on-air personalities and a guest interviewer suggested the shootings appeared to be an "attack on faith," motivated by "hostility toward Christians."
The suspect in the shootings which took place Wednesday evening at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly told his African-American victims as he opened fire, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. You have to go." He also reportedly announced that he was in the church "to shoot black people."
In his lone publicly-viewable Facebook photo, Roof wears a jacket bearing two patches — the flags of apartheid-era South Africa, and of white-controlled Rhodesia, the country now known as Zimbabwe.
One high school friend of Roof's, quoted by the Daily Beast online magazine, described him as having "that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs. He made a lot of racist jokes."
But to Fox News personalities Doocy, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade, as well as their guest, Reverend E.W. Jackson, the most telling fact about the Charleston shootings was that they took place in a church.
"I am deeply concerned that this gunman chose to go into a church," Jackson said. "There does seem to be a rising hostility against Christians across this country."
The Fox News hosts agreed, also apparently dismissing the possibility that racial bigotry played a role in motivating the killings.
"Extraordinarily they called it a hate crime. Some look at it as, well, it's a white guy apparently in a black church," said Doocy. "But you made a great point a moment ago about the hostility toward Christians. And it was church."
Jackson, who is himself African-American and who, in May, spoke at an event organized by the ultra-conservative Family Research Council, where he complained about "persecution" of American Christians, cautioned viewers against ascribing racial motives to the gunman.
"Most people jump to conclusions about race," Jackson said. "I long for the day when we stop doing that in our country."
Jackson and the Fox News hosts concluded by agreeing on the need for pastors to carry guns in church, to supposedly defend against future mass shootings such as the incident in Charleston.
[Image: Fox News Screen Grab, Facebook]