Under the headline “CNN Alters Photo of Umpqua Killer Chris Harper-Mercer,” TheGatewayPundit.com, a self-described “right-of-center” website, initially reported: “CNN photoshops the photo of Oregon college killer Chris Harper-Mercer to make him look white.”
The website, citing another right-wing site, The Conservative Tree House — which describes itself as a “Rag Tag Bunch of Conservative Misfits” — posted a side-by-side image of Harper-Mercer. The photo on the left, which is identified as a selfie he posted on social media, shows him with a dark complexion. The photo on the right, which the sites allege CNN broadcasted, portrays Harper-Mercer with a very light-skinned complexion.
Harper-Mercer shot and killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last week.
“Why did CNN need to change the complexion (color) of their broadcast Why is no-one showing pictures of mom, Laurel Margaret Harper” reads the caption.
Harper-Mercer’s father, Ian, is a white man from northern England. Published reports depict Harper-Mercer’s mother Laurel Harper as Black.
TheGatewayPundit.com has since updated the story to say CNN has refuted the report and displayed tweets by CNN Media correspondent Brian Stelter disputing the claim.
In one tweet Stelter says, “it’s not real. CNN hasn’t shown any images of gunman. please consider the source of what you saw online.” In another tweet, Stelter says, “it’s a shame. a complete hoax. hard to understand why ppl fall for it.”
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 4, 2015
And, according to conservative website Newsmax, not only did CNN lighten the image of Harper-Mercer, but the network also used footage of white hands to depict his mother in a report about her online postings.
“During the report discussing Harper’s posts to the website, two different times close-ups of women’s hands are shown typing at a computer keyboard,” reports Newsmax. “Both times, the footage used appear to be the hands of white women.”
Info Wars, a conservative website owned and operated by conspiracy theorist and talk radio host Alex Jones, also posted the side-by-side images of Harper-Mercer and offered to explain the media’s motivation for altering the image and not showing images of his Black mother.
“The reason CNN altered the photo is obvious: the race of Mercer does not fit the narrative that only white males — and thus white supremacist — can be mass shooters,” it says. “A black male shooter is incompatible with the racist Black Lives Matters class warfare agenda pushed by the liberal establishment and its propaganda media.”
Info Wars, conservative website Breitbart and others also suggested the Los Angeles Times was furthering the white supremacist narrative when it quoted federal law enforcement sources familiar with Harper-Mercer’s writings who said he opposed organized religion and supported white-supremacist causes.
The fact that the LA Times’ sources also said Harper-Mercer identified as mixed-race on a dating website and lived with his Black mother is further proof, conservative sites say, that it’s impossible for him to have been a white supremacist.
“Though it is possible that someone resembling the Dave Chappelle character Clayton Bigsby, who was a blind black white supremacist, did exist, we can all agree that it is unlikely,” wrote Breitbart.