Initial reports stating the alleged killer of O'Shae Sibley was Muslim, are false. One of our cover stories last week, from our media partner Washington Blade, implied that the suspect was Muslim. Many outlets implied, or reported, the same misinformation at the time.
Sibley is a queer black man who was murdered July 29 while dancing at a gas station in New York City. The New York Times now reports that the alleged killer’s lawyer describes the suspect as Christian.
We are thankful a reader pointed this out and emailed us. It’s important for news outlets to get it right on their first try, but reporters and editors are human and oftentimes during breaking news events key details turn out later to be false.
This piece of misinformation was bigger than most though, prompting LGBT leaders, and Muslim leaders, to stand together in solidarity at a press conference with NYC Mayor Eric Adams after the killing. Adams declared that the two communities “stand united against fighting any form of hate in this city.”
The Times writes “the picture that emerged suggested an explosive combination of homophobia, religious intolerance and racism.”
The Times reported that the gas station attendant who witnessed the encounter, said one of the young men stated, “I’m Muslim. I don’t want this here.” While court documents said a witness heard the group say, “Stop dancing here, we are Muslim.”
So, it’s understandable how and why this information was widely reported as fact. And as more details emerge during the investigation other details may get corrected as well, while new details will come to light.
As a friend of Sibley’s told the New York Times the suspect’s religion should not matter though: “That part isn’t even relevant. It doesn’t matter if he is Christian, Muslim, Jewish. If a person takes a person’s life, he should be held accountable.”
The suspect was not alone that night and we have no idea what religion his friends are and we do not need to speculate. The most important detail remains the same – a bright and beautiful young man is dead because of a senseless and random act of hate.
We take accuracy very seriously here at OutSFL. And I personally believe the bigger the mistake, the bolder the correction. Usually a correction gets slapped onto the end of a story but this misinformation needs a standalone story.