20-20 tonight devoted its entire hour to an "investigation" purporting to show that hate/homophobia had nothing to do with Matt Shepard's murder. 20-20 co-host Elizabeth Vargas conducted prison interviews with Matt's killers, who now repudiate their own defense at trial which was that the killing was motivated by "gay panic" after Matt made unwanted sexual advances, and claim that in reality the only motive was robbery. Various third parties made on-camera statements in "support" of this revised version of events, and claimed among other things that Matt Shepard was a dealer and user of methamphetamine who was the victim of a drugs-and-money-related robbery gone bad.
It's never surprising to find there are other sides to a story, but what bothers me about this is 20-20's hard sell that the Matt Shepard Story as we know it is a myth, a total fabrication, and that the self-serving claims made in the unconvincing interviews they aired are the reality. There may or may not be a news story here - ABC obviously thought there was - but is this honest and disinterested investigative reporting of new FACTS that have come to light, or is it something else? Is the 20-20 story intended - purely through unsubstantiated CLAIMS and hearsay that completely contradict sworn evidence at trial - to neutralize the potent anti-hate legacy of Matt Shepard's tragic death by removing its essential homophobic element and slandering him as a drug dealer and low-life in the process?
Is this a brazen attempt by powerful interests to write the Matt Shepard case out of the history books as a hate crime, and relegate it to the category of merely another drug-related murder? At a time when overt homophobia is again on the upswing and is actually being defended politically, and with anti-gay "morality" high on the agenda of the Christian Right, YOU decide.
For those who didn't watch it, the 20-20 transcript begins here: