NBC News’ Ben Collins on Monday downplayed the Dayton shooter’s apparent far-left social media activity, which included retweets of the reporter’s posts.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Collins discussed now-suspended Twitter and Facebook accounts that seemingly belonged to the shooter, Connor Betts. The 24-year-old killed nine people, including his sister, and injured 27 others, in a shooting Sunday in downtown Dayton, Ohio, before police shot him dead.
Collins said that, in his tweets, Betts “identified himself as part of the left.” But Collins deemed it too soon to conclude that Betts had a “political motivation” for the shooting.
Echoing reporting elsewhere, Collins said that Betts had tweeted about Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. But when MSNBC co-host Stephanie Ruhle attempted to clarify that Betts commented on the left-wing Democratic presidential candidates in a “positive way,” Collins disagreed.
Collins instead described Betts’ tweets about the two as: “More neutral than anything.”
However, widely reported tweets attributed to Betts are clearly supportive of Sanders and Warren. According to screen grabs published by the blog Heavy, Betts in November replied to a tweet about supporting Sanders by saying, “I think Warren has a decent shot, as well.” He also said that he would “happily vote for” her.
In June, Heavy said that Betts tweeted: “I want socialism, and I’ll wait not wait for the idiots to finally come around to understanding.”
Connor Betts retweeted Ben Collins
Other reports found that Betts retweeted left-leaning news and commentary. Among the journalists that the shooter retweeted was Collins, Human Events editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam pointed out.
Is that is? Oh gosh no.
3/ Ben Collins, resident anti-Trump psycho at NBC News, was well liked by Betts. pic.twitter.com/YaXCvrwscV
— Raheem ‘the naughty nationalist’ Kassam (@RaheemKassam) August 6, 2019
NBC's Ben Collins has been on MSNBC several times today, including the last segment, and nobody has mentioned he was retweeted by the Dayton shooter several times.
He called the shooter's support of Warren “More neutral than anything.”https://t.co/7DRKgmy5pP
— Cameron Cawthorne (@Cam_Cawthorne) August 5, 2019
Betts also apparently “retweeted extreme left-wing and anti-police posts, as well as tweets supporting Antifa, or anti-fascist, protesters,” CNN reported.
Beyond Twitter, a number of Betts’ former high school classmates told the network that he enjoyed shooting guns and that police had been made aware that he maintained a “kill list.” One former classmate said Betts also had a “rape list” for girls.
Vice News reported that Betts was a member of a band called Menstrual Munchies, which played a rape-fetishizing brand of metal called “pornogrind,” and is considered antifascist by other metal groups.
Collins was not alone is seeking to draw a clear line between the Dayton shooter and 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, who hours earlier, allegedly killed 22 people and injured two dozen others in a shooting massacre in El Paso, Texas.
Whereas Crusius appeared to describe his shooting as part of an anti-immigrant crusade in a “manifesto” posted online, no direct evidence of Betts’ motive has yet to emerge.
NBC reporter Brandy Zadronzny warned on Twitter Tuesday the “far right” was trying to “equate” to the two shootings, and urged, “Don’t let them.”
Everyone has personal politics. Not all mass shootings are politically motivated. (Most are domestic violence.) It’s beyond irresponsible to use the Dayton shooter’s lefty Twitter to assign a political motive. The far right would like to equate Dayton to El Paso. Don’t let them.
— Brandy Zadrozny (@BrandyZadrozny) August 6, 2019
Meanwhile, conservatives saw the media applying a double standard. Even those who acknowledged the greater uncertainty surrounding Betts’ motive, suspected that media would have covered the story differently if the shooter had been a right-winger.
“If the shooter sans manifesto had plastered social media with Trump support and followed conservatives, the media would blast that fact out there incessantly, and implicate his politics,” tweeted Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro on Tuesday.
2. If the shooter sans manifesto had plastered social media with Trump support and followed conservatives, the media would blast that fact out there incessantly, and implicate his politics. In fact, many would blame the right without any such connections (see Giffords/Palin).
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 6, 2019
Also Tuesday, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl declared that Betts had an obsession with violence and mass shootings and had expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting.
“[He was] very specifically seeking out information that promotes violence,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Todd Wickerham added.