Criminology, Politics, Report

No, There’s No Evidence of a Murder Wave Targeting Gay Americans

“Why Are Murders Of Gay And Bi Men Up A Staggering 400 Percent?” asks the headline atop Michelangelo Signorile’s new HuffPost column, shared at least 13,000 times so far “Hint: This Alarming Surge Has Taken Place Since Donald Trump Became President,” adds HuffPost unsubtly in a tweet promoting the column.

If your response was to wonder first whether such murders are in fact skyrocketing, yours is the right instinct.

With the FBI reporting 11,821 male homicide victims in the U.S. in 2016, even a conservative estimate of how many are gay or bisexual yields a number of annual victims well into the hundreds, and perhaps significantly above that.

Were such a number to jump by 400 percent, it would generate a noticeable blip of 1,000 or more extra gay male murder victims in a single year. Terrifying, right?

But Signorile, it seems, is working with a different data set. Citing a report by an advocacy group called the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, he says the number rose “from four in 2016 to 20 in 2017.”

Wait a minute. Only four gay men were murdered in all of 2016? And then 20 the next year?

Maybe these figures are meant to count only those murders of gay or bi men in which the motive is anti-gay hatred. Signorile notes darkly that hateful groups and persons “may feel emboldened” by current political trends, perhaps explaining a murder spree. And he leads off his piece with the story of one murder last month, the Blaze Bernstein case in California, in which hateful ideology does appear to have played a key role.

But Signorile also mentions in passing that the NCAVP stats include murders following social media hookups. That seemed curious: when do those get counted as hate-related crimes, and when not? So I went and looked at the underlying report, entitled “A Crisis of Hate.”

The first problem with the data is one that the advocates at NCAVP make no effort to hide, which is that the recently launched database consists only of killings reported to them. Among its sources are “media reports, police reports, or … our member programs.” If more killings are being brought to NCAVP’s attention, it’s hard to know whether that reflects an actual increase, or just that the group has been more successful in receiving reports.

The report also relegates to a footnote a fact that might seem significant: the database includes only “individually reported” murders of LGBT persons. It thus excludes the 2016 slaying of 49 persons in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub by an Islamic State adherent. Had these numbers been included, 2017 would have shown a steep plunge rather than sharp rise. The omission is ironic given NCAVP’s (and Signorile’s) concern for murders motivated by hateful ideologies, of which Islamic State’s is assuredly one.

One valuable aspect of the NCAVP report is that it goes on to narrate the individual stories of murders in its 2017 database, including the 20 murders of gay men on which Signorile relies. In one place it asserts that each killing was listed because of “information that indicates a strong likelihood that the motivations behind the violence were either primarily or partially related to anti-LGBTQ bias.” And yet the individual narratives tell an entirely different story. In fact, for 16 of the 20, it is hard to see any evidence at all that the perpetrators were motivated by such bias. In two cases, it’s mentioned specifically that police don’t attribute the killings to hate.

More than a third of the murders were known to have followed hookups in person or on social media, with another quarter consisting of victims found slain at home in unexplained circumstances. Of the social-media-related killings, there is no indication that any resulted from the sorts of persecution games, notorious from certain Russian videos, in which local thugs motivated by a desire to hurt gays as such (as opposed to, say, trying to get money) lure an unsuspecting person to an assignation.

For 2017, I counted in NCAVP’s database not 20, but rather four murders of men in which anti-gay feeling appeared to be a factor. In one especially horrible case from Florida, Juan Javier Cruz was gunned down after defending his friends, who were leaving a restaurant, from anti-gay slurs shouted by Nelson Hernandez Mena, who has been charged in Cruz’s death. The three other cases included a Nevada man fatally shot by his disapproving, abusive father; a prison inmate in Michigan killed by a fellow inmate after a dispute over sexual orientation; and a man shot on a Manhattan street whose killer claimed that the victim had “come on to” him.

Even one murder is too many, but none of these four narrations – in fact, none of the 20 – has an obvious link at all to hate groups or to national political tensions, as Signorile devotes much of his column to implying. Much less does anything in the report document a plot to kill gay men, fueled by organized haters, that has succeeded in quadrupling the murder rate.

Yet many readers will be petrified with fear at such a report, which may be one reason at least one large gay nonprofit, Victory Fund, has already been citing the study in fundraising outreach.

The more you scare, after all, the more they’ll share – and donate.


Walter Olson (@walterolson) is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of several books on the American legal system. He is the founder and chief writer of


  1. Thank you for this much-needed dash of reason, Mr. Olson. No one is helped by exaggerated reports.

  2. Glenn says

    Thanks for doing this. I’m curious if you contacted HuffPo for a response. This is egregious lying even by their (non-)standards.

  3. Robert Paulson says

    Thank you for this example of how “fake news” is manufactured.

  4. David Gowers says

    While I think you hit most of the important points, I’d like to add one:

    When I read the headline, I thought — well, the first problem is that there probably aren’t enough of them to begin with, to make the meaning of a 400% increase obvious. The figure of a few hundred you suggest — a 400% increase in that might well imply some systematic change.

    4/year becoming 20/year is not difficult to believe, but its lack of size should be a warning to be skeptical of the claim that 400% change is ACTUALLY SIGNIFICANT. A single dedicated serial killer could account for the entire 16 people stated in that claim.

  5. Surreal how the media are always riling people up, dividing us up, and slurring conservatives as being murderous, hateful people. This sort of rhetoric fuels the Antifa types, and, one day, it’ll get people killed.

    In the meanwhile, those same media types bitch about Trump’s complaining about them, having the gall to frame his complaints as an “attack on the first amendment” — and they do this while lauding the free speech-haters in academia. Truth means nothing to them; it’s purely about power.

    • What’s actually happened is the indoctrination centers, er Journalism schools, no longer teach journalism. Few journalists who hunt down stories, conduct the research, and check sources exist any longer. There are a few, but not many. The bulk of the news you see/hear are stories drafted by outsiders “passed along” to “journalists” for publication. The more salacious, the more clicks and retweets which drives advertising $$s. It’s why click-bait exists. If the left-biased media didn’t print anti-Trump stories, do you think they’d see nearly the click counts? They thrive on click counts of the TDS suffers checking their article forums 30-40x a day or pulling the front page 10-15x a day and “showing those ads!”

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  9. Jimy Jones says

    An alleged serial killer in Toronto was recently found after many gay men vanished after hooking up with him through dating apps. He liked submissive men. He liked middle easterners. Police moved in when they saw a man go with him into his apartment. The man was found already tied up at the time of the arrest. The suspect had been a landscaper and body parts were found in planters in areas he’d worked. One man said he went on a date with him and was violently grabbed by the neck and forced to the crotch. He escaped because of martial arts training. So far police attribute about 5 deaths to the man but they anticipate to find many more. After years of demonizing cis gender hate it turns out the biggest threats may come from within. This and the pulse night club were notably sad. There was another gay Canadian psycho and extreme narcissist a few years ago as well. He was caught in an internet cafe. All strongly supported gay marriage. But it didn’t make them good.

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  12. Mariane Bribed says

    I recently came accross stagering numbers of gays (actually not just gays, all LGBT’s) murdered motivated by hate in Mexico which is reported to have the second place in homophobic murderes in Latin America (even though Peru is supossedly the most homophobic one).

    When analizing the numbers (they provide literally no information whatsoever for any of the hate murders reported; not even names) it turns out that, IF the numbers are true, 0.00017% gays have been murdered per year in the last 20 years. But then I came across an article from Peru. A conservative group analyzed each murder reported (aproximately 18 in 2015). There was absolutely no information at all about two of the murderes; not even names. Most were murderered by sex or ex-sex partners (around 13), two were killed in drug deals, one committed suicide, and two were robbed and killed in the robberies. Literally NOT ONE had been a “hate crime”. The LGBT lobby did it again the following year. They reported about 30 gays murdered motivated by hate. The exact same thing happened. By far, most were killed by sexual partners and not ONE was motivated by hate.

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