Don Lemon: 'Objectively,' Virginia Shooter Was 'Racist'

Don Lemon spotlighted the racist motivations of Vester Flanagan, the fired journalist who murdered two of his former associates from WDBJ on Wednesday, during a Thursday commentary on Tom Joyner's syndicated radio show. Lemon zeroed in on how 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." The CNN anchor bluntly contended that "if one objectively looks at Flanagan's actions and history, one can't help but come to the conclusion that both are probably true." [audio below]

Lemon led his commentary by expressing his horror at the shootings: "I saw something I hoped I would never see happen, ever: someone shot and killed a television reporter and cameraman live on the air. It is television journalists' worst nightmare." After giving a brief summary of the on-air murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, he focused on the "manifesto" that Flanagan sent to ABC News:

DON LEMON: ...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. The station's general manager says that Flanagan had even filed suit against the station, claiming racial discrimination...the general manager of the station – his station – the station managers, fellow employees say the claims were nonsense, and a judge later threw out the claim. In fact, in 2000, Flanagan had filed a similar claim against a Tallahassee television station – which, according to his attorney, was settled out of court.

The journalist highlighted that "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....Psychologists say Flanagan used racism as a cover for his own shortcomings; and in doing so, his downfall became a self-fulfilling prophecy." Moments later, Lemon asserted that Flanagan was both "mentally ill" and "racist," and added that "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."

It should be pointed out that Lemon left one key detail about Flanagan's "manifesto." According to the ABC News report on Wednesday, the murderer revealed that "what triggered today's carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting. 'Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15....What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims' initials on them."

The transcript of Don Lemon's commentary from Thursday's broadcast of The Tom Joyner Morning Show:

DON LEMON: You know, yesterday, I saw something I hoped I would never see happen, ever: someone shot and killed a television reporter and cameraman live on the air. It is television journalists' worst nightmare. We do think about it when we're out there in situations-

TOM JOYNER: I think about it when you're out there – yeah-

LEMON: Yeah – we do. And many times now – and this is just lately – we're starting to wear bulletproof vests, and we're starting to have security because usually – it used to be that people didn't mess with reporters and news people, because we were bringing you what was happening.

Twenty-four-year old Alison Parker was the reporter; 27-year old Adam Ward was her photographer. The journalists for WDBJ were interviewing a city official about tourism and commerce, when 41-year old Vester Flanagan walked up – he opened fire; unloaded 15 rounds into the three victims – emptying the gun's entire magazine. The two journalists died at the scene. The city official they were interviewing is in critical condition – condition improved overnight – now stable.

Vester Flanagan, whose TV name was Bryce Williams – on television, he used that – he was a disgruntled former reporter, who had worked with both journalists at the same station before being fired for erratic behavior. The station's managers and his co-workers say Flanagan was fired because he had become increasingly difficult to work with. They say he wasn't good on-air – he wasn't a good on-air reporter.

But Flanagan saw it differently. 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. The station's general – general manager says that Flanagan had even filed suit against the station, claiming racial discrimination. The GM – the general manager of the station – his station – the station managers, fellow employees say the claims were nonsense, and a judge later threw out the claim. In fact, in 2000, Flanagan had filed a similar claim against a Tallahassee television station – which, according to his attorney, was settled out of court.

Right after yesterday's double murder, Flanagan – using his TV name, Bryce Williams – Tweeted out his frustrations, and posted videos of the shooting. He wrote on Twitter, 'Alison made racist comments. EEOC report filed. They hired her after that? Adam went to HR on me after working with me one time. I filmed the shooting; see Facebook.' He sent everyone to his Facebook page to see that horrific shooting, where he murdered two people.

Following – fellow employees, excuse me, 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 just 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.

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.

[H/t: [Mediate's Matt Wilstein]


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NBDaily Crime Race Issues Racism CNN Radio Audio Don Lemon Tom Joyner
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