WND's Jennings attack du jour: Bashing The Laramie Project

Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

WorldNetDaily's latest attempt to attack Kevin Jennings is a January 8 article by Bob Unruh -- as per usual, following the lead of anti-gay group MassResistance, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group -- writing that Jennings "is president of the board of the Tectonic Theater Project, which created 'The Laramie Project,' a play about the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming homosexual Matthew Shepard that condemns traditional biblical views on homosexuality as hateful and bigoted."

Unruh described Shepard as "the 21-year-old man who, according to a 2004 ABC News '20/20' report, actually was killed by drug-using thugs intent on robbery -- a fact ignored by the production." But it's not a fact -- it's right-wing revisionism. As we've detailed, one of Shepard's killers mounted a gay-panic defense at his trial, and the 20/20 report ignored the killer's in-custody interview, during which he offered what the Matthew Shepard Foundation calls "an un-rehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during, and after leaving Matt tied to the fence."

Unruh uncritically repeats whatever MassResistance asserts about The Laramie Project as fact without any apparent attempt to verify them or obtain any response to the attacks. Among them:

  • It's an "insidious GLBT propaganda play ... which exploits the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard as a 'hate crime' and leads kids directly to groups promoting GLBT causes."
  • The play "ridicules a Baptist minister for preaching the biblical perspective on homosexuality as a sin. The pastor's expression of hope that Shepard repented of his sins before dying is described as hateful."
  • The play "takes part in fear-mongering" by repeating cast members' trepidation in going to Laramie, Wyoming, to conduct the interviews of residents that form the basis of the production; the two men accused in Shepard's death already were in custody, so, according to MassResistance, the "insinuation is that other Laramie citizens are dangerous."
  • The community as a whole is responsible for the crime of two men, with one character stating, "We need to own this crime. I feel. Everyone needs to own it. We are like this. ..."

Unruh stated that, in repeating MassResistance's attack on a high school's production of The Laramie Project, "Mass Resistance also noted the graphic language of the play for high schoolers to recite." Apparently high school students had never used graphic language until The Laramie Project came along.

In contrast to the hyperbolic MassResistance attack that Unruh swallows whole, The New York Times noted of The Laramie Project upon its New York premiere that "Even the evening's less sympathetic characters, including the Kansas preacher who showed up at Mr. Shepard's funeral as an anti-gay protester, are served up with respectful caution," adding that "There is an overriding sense that the characters -- who range from ranchers to university professors, from a lesbian waitress to a Baptist minister -- are cut from the same cloth of perplexed decency, embellished with the occasional signpost of an eccentricity." The Times also stated that the play has become "a catalyst for communities to discuss something of urgent importance: in this case, hate crimes, homophobia and the treatment of difference in American society," and that "it serves as a model for a way of speaking tough truths and listening respectfully."

Listening respectfully? That's a message WorldNetDaily and MassResistance don't seem interested in hearing.

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