But, on the November 26, 2004, 20/20, ABC host Elizabeth Vargas ran a report in which a number of figures tied to the case, including the prosecutor, were interviewed, and made a credible case that Shepard was targeted by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson not because of anti-gay sentiment, but because McKinney was high on methamphetamines, giving him unusual violent tendencies as well as a desire for cash to buy more drugs. Vargas not only found that a meth high can lead to the kind of extreme violence perpetrated against Shepard, but that McKinney had gone on to similarly attack another man, causing a skull fracture, very soon after his attack on Shepard. Additionally, McKinney’s girlfriend and another friend of McKinney’s even claimed that McKinney himself has bisexual tendencies, although McKinney himself denied it.
Vargas appeared on the November 19, 2004, The O’Reilly Factor on FNC and summarized her findings:
The prosecutor who prosecuted these crimes says that he never believed it was a hate crime. He believes it was a drug crime. Aaron McKinney, according to Aaron McKinney himself and to several other witnesses, was coming down from a five-day methamphetamine binge. He freely admits he not only used methamphetamine but dealt them, sold them. Five days up with no sleep, strung out on drugs, desperate to buy more, desperate to rob somebody to get money to buy more drugs. This was the motive, according to Aaron McKinney and the other witnesses.
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Friday, November 19, 2004 The O’Reilly Factor on FNC, followed by the Wednesday, April 29, Countdown show on MSNBC and the same days’s Hardball on MSNBC:
#From the November 19, 2004, The O’Reilly Factor:
ELIZABETH VARGAS: We talked to a lot of witnesses in the case, looked at statements that had been previously sealed by the court following the convictions. And what we found out was that sort of the original version of events that everybody believed may not be true. The version of events was Matthew Shepard didn't know, had never met these two men, that they targeted him, attacked him, and beat him so severely because he was gay. We have talked to several witnesses who say actually the men may have in fact known each other.
BILL O'REILLY: I just want to fill people's memories in because it was -- apparently, they were at a bar, these two guys felt he was coming on to them in some way, they lured him outside and they killed him. That was basically the nut. You're saying there was more to the murder?
VARGAS: Even the prosecutor says there was more to the murder. The prosecutor who prosecuted these crimes says that he never believed it was a hate crime. He believes it was a drug crime. Aaron McKinney, according to Aaron McKinney himself and to several other witnesses, was coming down from a five-day methamphetamine binge. He freely admits he not only used methamphetamine but dealt them, sold them. Five days up with no sleep, strung out on drugs, desperate to buy more, desperate to rob somebody to get money to buy more drugs. This was the motive, according to Aaron McKinney and the other witnesses.
VARGAS: When we talked to an expert about this, it was something called methamphetamine rage. I mean, it's something that experts say is common for somebody coming – he beat another boy that night, another young man, only this young man. ... right after he left Matthew Shepard tied to the fence, he and his friend drove down into town, and, 20 minutes later, he was attacking somebody else in the exact same fashion. This young man happened to be armed with a baseball bat and had a friend there to help him out. Matthew Shepard was unarmed and by himself and was much more a victim of his-
O'REILLY: So you may get backlash now from the gay groups who say, well, why even bother with this thing? What are you going to, what's the answer to that?
VARGAS: The answer to that is we're trying, we have an obligation to uncover the truth of what really happened. 20/20 was one of the first newsmagazine's to go out with this story that this was a bias crime, this was a hate crime way back in 1998 when this happened. ... The girlfriend of Aaron McKinney went on our program in silhouette ... She lied. She comes to us now, not in silhouette, in full face to admit that she lied. This was something they cooked up hoping to get him a lesser sentence to explain why he might have freaked out and done what he did.
O'REILLY: So they were going homophobia, whatever? They tried to do it.
VARGAS: They claimed that this was something from the beginning they cooked up as a way to get a lesser sentence. But I must say it's important to know we knew this would be controversial. We know there will be some people who are not happy about this version of events.
O'REILLY: And you're a hundred percent sure that this is correct? Now you're not going to come back a year from now and say, well, we're going back to the gay thing?
VARGAS: I'm a hundred percent sure our hour is accurate. We talked to a lot of people, have a very, very-
O'REILLY: If you have a girl recanting, that's big.
VARGAS: We do. And the prosecutor himself saying he never believed it was a hate crime.
- See more at: ABC Debunked Matthew Shepard Murder as No Hate Crime, MSNBC Savages Republican for Repeating