Newsweek’s Hit Piece on Murder Victim Larry King

This article expresses the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2008

There are certain words and phrases that give a reader a sense of the perspective of the writer. And when discussing issues relating to orientation, some words and phrases suggest either a harsh hostility to gay people or a callous ignorance of our lives.

So it was with dismay that I read Ramin Setoodeh’s piece in Newsweek about the circumstances surrounding murder of Lawrence King. Setoodeh, in an effort to tell a “multilayered and complex” story, saw fit to use such language as “inappropriate, sometimes harmful, behavior”, “flaunted his sexuality”, “flamboyance”, and “pushed his rights”. These are all catch phrases that are most often heard from anti-gay activists when seeking to justify bigotry and discrimination.

Setoodeh uses these phrases to present a picture of Larry King, and one that is not complimentary. Unlike his murderer, Brandon McInerney, who “was smart” but “had his share of troubles”, for King the author had little good to say.

To Setoodeh, Larry was the primary source of disturbance on campus. He wore makeup and “thought nothing of chasing the boys around the school in [high heels], teetering as he ran.” He was “a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon”. “He went to school accessorized to the max” and would “sidle up to the popular boys’ table and say in a high-pitched voice, “Mind if I sit here?””

If there were any residents of Oxnard that didn’t view Larry as a prancing mincing menace intent on wreaking havoc on all around him, Setoodeh didn’t seem to find them. He found instead an attorney with a “gay panic” defense, a litigious adoptive father who resents the gay community for caring about Larry’s murder, and several teachers who objected to his effeminate ways.

In short, there’s very little in the Newsweek article that would not seem more at home on World Net Daily or a press release from the American Family Association.

And other than the briefest of disclaimers there is little to suggest that King was not fully to blame for his own death,. After all, he “sexually harassed” McInerney. He “was pushing as hard as he could, because he liked the attention”.

In addition to Larry King, there’s one other villain in Setoodeh’s tale. No, not the boy who pulled the trigger; he was being “bullied”, you see. The other responsible party is Joy Epstein, “a lesbian vice principal with a political agenda.” In Setoodeh’s words, “Some teachers believe that she was encouraging Larry’s flamboyance, to help further an “agenda,” as some put it.”

It may be that Ramin Setoodeh was limited by the nature of the legal system. While the defense attorney has an interest in pushing a “blame the school, blame the administration, blame the victim, blame anyone but McInerney” spin, the prosecution was not willing to try the case in the papers. And with Larry King’s allegedly abusive adoptive father motivated by his lawsuit against the school, there is no one left to speak for Larry.

Setoodeh may have let inexperience and limited input sway his judgment into writing a hit piece on the victim. He is, after all, an odd choice for an in depth article about social interactions in an elementary school. His prior articles appear to consist primarily of celebrity interviews and entertainment commentary.

But though Setoodeh had not written substantive work for Newsweek before this, it is not the first time that he has shown awkwardness around the subject of homosexuality.

In December of 2005, he phrased a question to Jake Gyllenhaal that makes presumptions about Gyllenhaal’s expertise on gay issues and also wild assumptions about what “people” believe.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a breakthrough movie. Why do you think people oppose gay marriage?

Similarly, his odd questioning of Clay Aiken and whether the Kelly Ripa incident was homophobic cut short his interview with the former American Idol star. In fact, I was surprised at how frequently the term “awkward” appears when googling Mr. Setoodeh. And often when it didn’t, it should have.

I don’t know Ramin Setoodeh’s orientation or his personal tastes or biases. Nor do I know his reasons for writing an article that serves as little more than a press release for the defense on this murder case.

But whatever his motivations, it is clear to me that he was tragically under-qualified for the job and his lack of experience showed in his use of language and in his final product.

Stefano A

July 21st, 2008

Very sell said, Timothy.

I’m please that someone other than myself felt this way. I’d been waiting on someone in the blogosphere to label this piece for what it is. So far, you are the only one who has so succinctly identified its faults.

Thank you!


July 21st, 2008

After all, he “sexually harassed” McInerney. He “was pushing as hard as he could, because he liked the attention”.

I imagine there are many overly-aggressive heterosexual men and boys who might want to think long and hard about the implications if any court ever chooses to legitimize this defense.


July 21st, 2008

Thank you, this article really disturbed me. Setoodeh seems to have never considered the possibility that Larry’s actions were self-defense; that his rising ostentatiousness was a rebellious response to the “sexual” harassment he no doubt endured on a daily basis, just as many gay people (and straight people,) do for any kind of gender non-conformity at that age.
If Setoodeh’s position is correct and un-biased, then why didn’t we see articles like this after Columbine? Those victims supposedly pushed their killers to the breaking point with gay taunts as well.

The idea that Larry is to blame for his own death because he wouldn’t “tone it down” is sick. The insinuations that Epstein is in any way to blame for offering Larry support and trying to make a safe environment for him are incredibly sick.

This article deserves protest.

Stefano A

July 21st, 2008

Setoodeh seems to have never considered the possibility that Larry’s actions were self-defense; that his rising ostentatiousness was a rebellious response to the “sexual” harassment he no doubt endured on a daily basis,

That was one of the things that bothered me a lot about this article as well, Johno. That no consideration at all was given to that perspective.

Sportin' Life

July 21st, 2008

Thank you.

I hope you intend to forward your excellent commentary directly to the editors of Newsweek. The article actually shocked me with the extent to which it tried to place blame on King himself for his own murder. And on Epstein. Very shameful.


July 22nd, 2008

Timothy Kincaid wrote:

“I don’t know Ramin Setoodeh’s orientation or his personal tastes or biases.”

This might help:

The irony is enormous.


July 22nd, 2008

The portrait I got from the article was of a disturbed, confused kid who used over-the-top flamboyance as a defense mechanism. I didn’t get the impression that the article was like a press release from AFA.

Still, Setoodeh failed to take into account that however inappropriate King’s behavior toward other boys might have been, he was a product of his environment. He grew up being mistreated and responded by lashing out. It reminds me of Malcolm X’s allegory of the wolf asking the sheep or the rapist asking the raped why the latter hates the former.

Most disturbing of all was the portrayal of his killer as some sort of victim. There’s a big difference between taunting kids who make your life difficult and retaliating by shooting someone. McInerney could easily have gone to authorities at the school to report what was going on and, should they have failed to ameliorate the problem, he could have taken it all the way to the school board and then sued the district if nothing was done.

Anyway, I just checked and confirmed that Newsweek has a letters section, so I’d suggest you guys take your bitch pills and start typing…


July 22nd, 2008

Absolutely disgusting! How did that make it past the editor?


July 22nd, 2008

I agree! PLS send your critique to the letters section.


July 23rd, 2008

I typed Setoodeh’s name into Google and got the following article that he wrote for The Stanford Daily in 2004: “Homoeroticism returns to the big screen in ‘Starsky.'”

I haven’t seen the “Starsky & Hutch” movie, but that doesn’t look like a headline the copy editor wrote.

The title would generally seem innocent, but coupled with the content of Setoodeh’s Newsweek article, it raises suspicions.


July 24th, 2008

i just read the entire NEwsweek article right now and i am absolutely disgusted with how that author portrayed that if it matters how he dressed in school..and certainly had this boy gone the correct route and alerted authorities that he was “being basically stalked” by Larry, this situation would have ended a lot differently..the nerve of Setoodeh to imply in any way shape or form that Larry was at all to blame..

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.