Why is CNN focusing on the Virginia shooter being gay?

In the aftermath of the horrific murders of reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward on Aug. 26, Atlanta-based CNN has bizarrely focused on a random thread of the story—that the shooter Vester Flanagan was gay. 

Specifically, they zero in on the fact that he owned seven gay porn websites, which gives them the chance to post stories with the clickbait-heavy headline “Gay porn sites registered to Virginia shooter.” 

It also gave them the chance to include excerpts like this one.

One of the sites, according to an Internet archive search, offered a place "where you can talk live on video chat cam with your favorite gay hunks, pro and amateur models."

An email that Flanagan used when he set up the sites was also used on a basketball blog soliciting "live webcam models" with "nice bodies." It said the models "must be attractive & muscular."

Again, this is supposedly a report about a double murder.

The report ran throughout the day on Aug. 27, with CNN correspondent Drew Griffin calling it “just another disturbing twist” in the story about the shooting, and Wolf Blitzer teasing the report on “The Situation Room” while an on-screen headline blared “HISTORY OF INSTABILITY,” as if owning the gay porn sites, or maybe just simply being gay, is disturbing and a sign of instability. 

It finally took openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon to call out his own network when Blitzer asked his thoughts about the gay porn report.

“I don't really see the relevance of it. Because if it's not illegal, what's the problem with owning gay porn sites or straight porn sites?” he said, before continuing, “As long as it's two consenting adults, I don't see what difference it makes that he owns gay…it may be salacious, maybe it helps you sort of put a timeline together but I don't see the relevance,” before concluding, “Again, with those sites I don't want to gay shame him. There's nothing wrong with being gay.”

Throughout each of the reports they continued to run, CNN never drew a link between what Flanagan owning the sites had to do with the shootings. And making their focus on his sexuality even more absurd, they report that he created the sites in 2007 and got rid of them in 2008. 

So the story CNN felt was worthy of posting on their website and airing on multiple shows with feedback from multiple correspondents was that Flanagan got rid of several gay porn sites four years before he even stepped foot on the property as an employee at WDBJ in Roanoke, and seven years before the fatal shootings.

The simple answer to why they're focusing on his sexuality is, just like Lemon said, because it's salacious. It will get hits and ratings. We'll give the last word to left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America, who wrote in a story posted Friday, “Injecting details about Flanagan's unrelated sexual history in reports about the shooting has the effect of associating homosexuality with deviancy, mental instability, and violence in the minds of viewers.”