Outside Stonewall in NYC (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)
My first thought when we heard those gay men in Orlando claiming they recognized shooter Omar Mateen from Grindr, and that multiple friends had seen him on other apps, was that it sounded too good to be true, like an answer to a question that has been created rather than discovered.
It's s not that they seemed like liars (the one who claims he cuddled with Mateen does, in fact, seem like a damn liar), but more like it was a situation ripe for mistaken-identity assertions.
Now, in spite of a spate of similar stories—including the preposterously fake-seeming one involving a man who would only appear on TV in makeup out of fear ISIS would kill him—the L.A. Times reports the FBI is saying there is zero evidence Mateen was on any gay apps, let alone had any gay lovers.
This guy exemplifies the problem:
Kevin West, 29, a Navy veteran and Pulse regular, said Mateen messaged him on Jack’d and also said he recognized him entering the club on the night of the shooting. After the attack, West turned his phone and app passwords over to police and FBI investigators. He said Mateen didn’t reveal his name, but he recognized him from the photo Mateen had posted on the app, which matched one of the gunman released after the shooting.
On Thursday, he dismissed federal investigators’ doubts.
“No one is lying about him being on there,” West said of the gay apps, adding that “once you have the app and delete your profile, it’s gone.”
More power to him that he told his version of events to the FBI, but when the FBI comes back and casts doubt on his version, it's laughable for him to claim a profile on a gay app disappears forever once deleted. 100% for sure, if Mateen had an account—let alone one with his face—on Jack'd, Jack'd could produce that info should it be so required.
There's no shame in being wrong, but there is shame in being adamant that you're right when you're wrong. It's not helpful in the slightest.
Speaking of unhelpful, Cord Cedeno is so sure he's right, he has no qualms about floating a massive, anti-gay conspiracy theory, which in his mind is more likely than him being mistaken about the face of the person he messaged with on Grindr YEARS previously (he also claims to have seen Mateen in Pulse a few months before the shooting. He must be great with faces.):
Cord Cedeno, 23, another Pulse regular, insisted he saw Mateen at Pulse months before the shooting and messaged with him on Grindr for a short time, but eventually blocked him because he would only send photos and say “Hi.” Cedeno said he has no reason to doubt accounts from other Pulse regulars who have said they had seen Mateen visit the club in the past.
“The FBI obviously is trying to cover up their information,” he said of gay men who reported being contacted by Mateen. “I can go take a lie detector test. I know for a fact Omar messaged me.”
Cedeno said he did not contact police to tell them about his contact with Mateen, because some of his friends who did had their phones taken and were told not to talk to reporters. He said he doesn’t trust the FBI to investigate Mateen, given they questioned him in 2013 and again in 2014, placed him on a terrorist watch list but then removed him from the list.
“They let him go. They let him do this massacre. They could have arrested him. It just does not add up,” Cedeno said.
I'm not saying Cedeno is a liar, but he does not sound very certain in this now-famous interview. He sounds like he's immersed in gossip, and saying, “I know it for a fact!” is not the same as knowing something for a fact. It also sound and looks very much like the reporter is unintentionally leading him:
The most solid (if it can be called that) evidence that Mateen might've had gay issues is that his wife's current fiancé says she told him she had that impression.
I think the narrative of Mateen as self-hating homo (perhaps more so due to his Muslim, if not particularly devoutly Muslim, background) left him fatally conflicted has really been baked into the legend of Pulse by now, and while it is a handy talking point when it comes to the gay-rights agenda, I wonder if it will ever fade away if the feds eventually announce that definitively, Mateen was never on any apps and that no evidence exists he ever so much as hooked up with a guy.
People will believe what they want to believe, and a lot can be learned from what they want to believe, just not anything about the crime in question.
(Image credits: Tom Hiddleston photographed by Mona Kuhn, styled by Patrick Mackie. Grooming by Cheri Keating at The Wall Group. Digital technicians: Andrea Bartley, Paolo Alfante. Photography assistants: Chris O’Neill, Jared Burkhardt. Fashion assistants: Jay Barrett, Elyse Lightner. Special thanks to the Standard Highline and Chateau Marmont.)