In the hours after the FBI identified a 63-year-old white man as the sole suspect in the deadly Christmas bombing in Nashville, Tennessee, activists and social media users alike couldn’t help but notice the media narratives that had formed around him. The Tennessean reported that Anthony Quinn Warner, a computer technician initially named a “person of interest” in the bombing, died in the explosion authorities later said he caused. An unnamed law enforcement officer told Newsweek: “He is either a criminal mastermind or a dude who flew completely under the radar. He sounds like an extremely sad guy who wanted to die in an elaborate fashion on Christmas Day.”
It’s the kind of description people of color are seldom afforded. President Donald Trump chose to remain silent on the bombing altogether, Kristen Clarke, president of the National Lawyers’ Committee for CIvil Rights Under Law, noted in a tweet. She said Warner has leveled a city block and Duke Webb, a white shooting suspect and active military member, is accused of killing three people and injuring three more in Rockford, Illinois. “Trump has used profanity to attack kneeling football players and smeared those protesting racial violence. Silence on this one,” Clarke said in the tweet.
Clarke was referring to Trump’s implication that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a “son of a b—h” at an Alabama rally for Republican Sen. Luther Strange in September 2017. The president has repeatedly condemned Kaepernick’s choice of protest when he kneeled during the national anthem to condemn police brutality often victimizing Black and brown people. Trump, however, has not dedicated a single tweet to the violence that happened in Tennessee on Christmas.
Author Caroline Leavitt tweeted Sunday: “Anthony Warner was a huge supporter of @realdonaldtrump who has not come out to say anything negative or at all about the Nashville explosion. Need I say more? @GOP voters, you really want Gop in Georgia Senate? No you do not.” Human rights attorney Qasim Rashid tweeted Sunday that although CBS News has a photo of Warner, the news agency reported that “‘authorities would not say if the bombing is being considered domestic terrorism.’”
“Imagine being a suicide bomber & STILL not a terrorist #WhereWasHeRadicalized?” Rashid said in the tweet.
Investigative journalist Victoria Brownworth tweeted Monday: “Anthony Warner did not ‘die in the blast.’ He’s a suicide bomber. Anthony Warner is not a ‘lone wolf.’ He’s a domestic terrorist. Anthony Warner is not a ‘tragic figure.’ Were it not for six brave police men and women, he’d have killed innocent people on Christmas. Pass it on,” Brownworth tweeted.
Warner was afforded empathy that is simply inaccessible for many people of color. Criminal defense and civil rights attorney Rebecca Kavanagh gave as an example a KTIV-TV headline about a Black man that read “Omaha traffic stop ends with officer fatally shooting suspect.” From Kavanagh: “When you’re Black and the police shoot and kill you during a routine traffic stop, they describe you as a suspect and publish an old mug shot,” she tweeted. “But if you’re White, blow up a whole city block, you’re a ‘person of interest’ and @USATODAY publishes your elementary school photo. OK.”
MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin was similarly critical of authorities who told NBC Los Angeles there was no indication anyone but Warner was involved in the bombing. “I love how quickly authorities were able to suggest that no one else was involved,” he tweeted. “If this guy was Muslim and happened to catch a taxi a week before that driver would be interrogated and have his life turned upside down for not knowing he transported a would-be suicide bomber.”
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