NBC News senior reporter Ben Collins on Tuesday called on his fellow journalists to have a “come-to-Jesus moment” following the brutal massacre at a Colorado LGBTQ club, urging them to stand up to right-wing media mockery and take a moral responsibility while reporting on anti-trans hate.
Just a day after a 22-year-old gunman killed five people and injured at least 19 others at Club Q, which was hosting a drag show, Fox News star Tucker Carlson kicked off his primetime show by once again targeting the LGBTQ community, accusing drag performers of “sexualizing” young children.
“So these horrifying murders in Colorado over the weekend quickly became a pretext for yet more censorship of your speech. You are responsible for this, they told you, because you said the wrong things,” Carlson sneered. “Every time you object to drag time story hour for fifth graders or point out that genital mutilation is being committed on minors—which it is—every time you say that, you are putting people’s lives at risk.”
Just as he’s done numerous times in the past, the influential Fox News host took aim at Collins’ colleague Brandy Zadrozny—who, like Collins, is a former Daily Beast reporter—for her reporting on right-wing hate speech and transphobic targeting of hospitals that provide gender-affirming care.
“When you point out the truth, indisputably, and the truth is that some adults in this country, apparently a growing number, have a deeply unhealthy fixation on the sexuality of children—when you say that out loud, you get people killed,” Carlson declared. “That is what Brandy Zadrozny is saying. And by saying that, Brandy Zadrozny and the many people like her are effectively defending that same deeply unhealthy fixation on the sexuality of children.”
During a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Collins—who has co-written several stories with Zadrozny on the right’s anti-LGBTQ fixation—bemoaned the feeling of hopelessness when reporting on the real-world violence incited by increasingly heated rhetoric.
“What can we do different? There are five dead people in a strip mall. That’s the only place they felt safe. I’m trying to thread the needle here,” he said. “I’m trying to say this is happening, this targeted stuff has real-life impacts. And I’m going to fail, by the way. I’m going to, you know, freak out because it’s happening because I wake up and I see that there are five dead bodies.”
Collins, whose reporting largely focuses on the “dystopia beat,” then said the fear of ridicule from conservatives for covering the right’s transphobia should be trumped by the actual impact of anti-LGBTQ violence.
“But I think we have to have a come-to-Jesus moment here as reporters. Are we more afraid of being on Breitbart for saying that trans people deserve to be alive, or are we more afraid of the dead people?” Collins wondered. “I’m more afraid of the dead people. I don’t want to wake up on a Sunday and see all of these headlines came to fruition.”
The NBC journo went on to say that the reason GOP politicians and right-wing pundits traffic in anti-trans hate is because of “the attention economy that we live in,” adding that it creates clicks and views.
“They end up on Tucker Carlson, Tucker attacked my colleague, not me, Brandy, of course. But he attacked Brandy,” Collins noted. “And he went right back into this idea that some ‘they’ is trying to groom your kids, trying to sexualize your children, right. Who’s the ‘they,’ first of all, and second of all, all of her reporting was right. All of it was right.”
Collins also drew parallels between Nazi Germany’s targeting of gay people as “hate objects” and right’s current treatment of the LGBTQ community, which they’ve repeatedly described as “groomers” and sexual predators.
“We have been through this in the past. It’s very dark, and the people playing around with this don’t take responsibility. They go right back into it,” he sighed.
“These people are being used as props right now, they’re being used as props, explicitly for electoral or monetary purpose,” Collins concluded. “Right now, the fact that 12 hours, 24 hours after a shooting, there is no inward reflection here, it’s just, you know, continue to use these people as props, continue to use the grief of these people as props. I think as reporters we’ve got to look in here, and double down. Who are we afflicting here if not the people who are grieving by not standing with them?”