The gunman in the horrific WDBJ shooting was both racist and mentally ill, Don Lemon of CNN has declared.
Early Wednesday morning, a suspect police have identified as Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, opened fire on WDBJ journalists Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, during a live remote, killing them both. A third victim survived the attack. Flanagan, described in multiple media accounts as a disgruntled former employee of the Roanoke, Virginia, TV station, committed suicide later that day with police in pursuit.
Law enforcement authorities indicated that Flanagan, who was previously terminated by WDBJ, fired 17 rounds with a Glock. Parker and Ward tragically died at the scene near Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, Virginia.
Apart from a lackluster performance review, WDBJ management allegedly reprimanded Flanagan for “for wearing an Obama sticker while recording a segment at a polling booth during the 2012 US Presidential Election — a clear breach of journalistic impartiality,” the Daily Mail reported.
According to a statement from Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, which is conducting the ongoing investigation into the crime, “Based on… evidence seized from his apartment, it is apparent that Flanagan closely identified with individuals who have committed domestic acts of violence and mass murder, as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.”
Lemon has a history of making unconventional and often going-viral remarks, shall we say, that may not fit seamlessly within the CNN culture, such as denouncing “dangerous” political correctness in a separate commentary. He also controversially displayed an N-word sign on CNN as a prop during the Confederate flag dispute, which now seems like ancient history.
While he is generally found on the liberal side of the political spectrum, Lemon has sparred with both liberals and conservatives on CNN and has also been chided on social media for making various wacky live TV comments. For what it’s worth, the Columbia Journalism Review “Darts & Laurels” blog identified Lemon as the worst journalist of 2014, although other publications were also so designated.
In a commentary on Tom Joyner’s New York City-based syndicated radio show, Don Lemon offered this assessment of the shooter’s background.
“In his manifesto he reportedly sent to ABC News, Flanagan says he had been discriminated against because he was black and gay. He reportedly wrote in the manifesto that he had been attacked his entire life by white women and black men. fellow employees … at WDBJ say Flanagan not only became increasingly difficult to work with, but became almost paranoid — obsessed with being a victim of homophobia and/or racism. His former colleagues of all different ethnicities say they never saw any type of discrimination towards Mr. Flanagan — just that he was a bad reporter and couldn’t accept it. Psychologists say Flanagan used racism as a cover for his own shortcomings; and in doing so, his downfall became a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Lemon went on to address both mental illness and racism that may have been factors in the WDBJ shooting.
“The discussion about Flanagan has mainly centered on mental health, and whether Flanagan was mentally ill. The other, lesser discussion has been whether he was racist. If one objectively looks at Flanagan’s actions and history, one can’t help but come to the conclusion that both are probably true. Flanagan killed the two young people because they were white. He has admitted as much. And yes, anyone who does what he did is also out of their mind.”
Later in the Joyner discussion, Lemon, who describes himself as gay, said that people from all walks of life get discriminated against for all sorts of reasons, but that’s no excuse for going out and shooting someone. Lemon added that he determined that Flanagan (TV name Bryce Williams) was a bad reporter with a bad attitude after talking with some of Flanagan’s former colleagues who now work for CNN.
In a very odd exchange with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Lemon dismissed allegations that WDBJ shooting suspect Vester Flanagan once launched gay porn sites as irrelevant and inexplicably compared it to the founding of Mediaite, the left-leaning website that posts clips primarily from the major cable news outlets.
[Photo by Michael Kovac / Getty Images Entertainment]