The Christian beheading Fox News conveniently ignored

Muslim commits violent murder in Oklahoma? Thirteen weeks of coverage. Christian does the same in Florida? Zippo

Published January 7, 2015 3:45PM (EST)

Tucker Carlson                      (Fox News)
Tucker Carlson (Fox News)

This article originally appeared on Media Matters.

On New Year's Eve, Christian Jose Gomez allegedly attacked his mother with an ax. Angry that she had been "nagging" him about moving some boxes up to the attic, Gomez beheaded Maria Suarez-Cassagne in the family's garage and tried to stuff her headless body into a garbage can, according to investigators. When he couldn't do that, he fled the home on his bike and was soon captured by local deputies in Oldsmar, Florida. Gomez calmly confessed to the crime and said he'd been planning it for days.

Note that Fox News ignored the Florida scene of grisly, domestic violence. Apparently, without a Muslim suspect under arrest for the beheading, Fox News wasn't interested. The cable channel didn't set aside hours to cover the horrific crime. There was no heated Fox News commentary, no panel discussions, no primetime news specials to comb over the evidence of the tragic beheading. Fox News didn't care about the shocking story of an isolated beheading in America.

Thirteen weeks ago however, Fox News couldn't stop talking about an isolated beheading in America. In late September 2014, Fox News became almost singularly obsessed with the gruesome workplace beheading in Moore, Oklahoma by a recent Muslim convert, Alton Nolen. Angered about being fired over racial comments at the Vaughan Foods processing plant, Nolen went home and retrieved a large kitchen knife. He returned to the workplace and began attacking his former co-workers. He beheaded one woman and injured another before he shot was by a company official. Nolen later confessed to the attack.

As reported at the time, when overseas Islamic State beheadings were in the news, "Moore police said there is no evidence that the attack was inspired by any similar events in the Middle East or by religious fundamentalism." The FBI found no links either: "They also said there was no indication that Nolen was copying the beheadings of journalists in Syria carried out by the Islamic State. Instead, the officials said, they are treating this as an incident of workplace violence."

Appearing before a Congressional hearing one week after the attack, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified that, while Nolen "was looking at the extreme ideology," "there is no evidence at this point that he was directed by a terrorist organization to do what he did or that that was the principle motivating factor." And that's why the local Oklahoma prosecutor charged Nolen with first-degree murder, but did not charge him as a terrorist.

Yet no strangers to fanning their patented flames of Islamophobia, Fox talkers elevated the tragic killing into a national story, while attaching sweeping political and national security implications to the crime. (Much of the national press also elevated the Moore story, but didn't incorporate Fox's naked Muslim-bashing in the process.) Declaring as fact that the beheading was an act of Islamic terrorism, and hyping it as an American jihadist on U.S. soil, Fox used the tragedy for political advantage, condemning Obama for being soft on terrorism, even though it was a local prosecutor in the very red state of Oklahoma who declined to bring terrorism charges.

Fox did everything in its power to politicize the story and to demonize American Muslims, with one host asking, "Is it time to profile"? The evening talkers all hosted extensive, breathless coverage of the killing ("Terror In The Heartland"), and allowed guests to make all kinds of unproven connections between the crime and to Islam, and how Obama was to blame for the investigation.

The opening from Kelly's September 29 show: "Breaking tonight, it is the first case of a beheading on domestic soil by a man who appears to have become radicalized as an Islamist."  Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson wondered if Americans "should have confidence" in FBI investigators if they wouldn't call Nolen a terrorist. Sean Hannity wrote at the time: "Remember: if it talks like a terrorist and kills like a terrorist, it's a probably terrorist." And on TV he announced, "Oklahoma and elsewhere prove that the threat that is posed by radical Islam is real." (That came during a "very special Hannity conversation, "Radical Islam in America" on October 10.)

All that hysteria despite the fact there was nothing to connect the beheading to terrorism. But as Texas Governor Rick Perry stressed on Fox, that form of gruesome knife attack was "associated with terrorism" so that made it big news, right?

Well, not in the case of Florida on New Years Eve it didn't. And not in the case of Stillwater, Oklahoma last November.

One month after the controversial decapitation in Moore, Oklahoma, 21-year-old Isaiah Zoar Marin was playing cards with his friend inside a Stillwater apartment. During the game, Marin took out a "large black sword," started swinging it around, and then plunged the massive knife into the chest and neck of Jacob Crockett. When police arrived, they found that Crockett's "head was almost entirely severed from his body" during the gruesome attack. Like Gomez in Florida, Marin calmly confessed to the crime.

And like the Florida beheading, Fox News also ignored this would-be decapitation. Why? Here's a possible clue: When local reporters asked if the captured killer was Muslim, they learned instead that he was something of a strident Christian [emphasis added]:

The victim's brother, Jesse Crockett, told police Marin is a "religious zealot" and "heavy drug user," according to a court affidavit.

Police confirmed there was evidence at the scene that Marin might have been involved in the use of some illegal drugs.

The defendant's brother, Samuel Marin, said "in the past Jacob and Isaiah had disagreements because Jacob and Jesse were practicing witchcraft and Isaiah had strong Christian beliefs," a Stillwater police officer reported in the affidavit


The defendant's brother also told police "Isaiah had been watching YouTube videos related to his Christian beliefs and the Book of Matthew" earlier.

Would it be pointless to make sweeping generalizations about Christians based on the actions of one "religious zealot" who tried to behead a friend whom he suspected of "practicing witchcraft?" Or to make far-reaching assumptions about a religion based on the fact that that prior to a vicious beheading attack, a confessed killer had been "watching YouTube videos related to his Christian beliefs"?

Of course it would be. But that's exactly what Fox did with the beheading story in Moore, OK.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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Beheading Christianity Domestic Terrorism Media Matters Muslims