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Owen Jones Walks Off Sky News In Row Over Orlando Shooter's Homophobia

The shooting "was an intentional attack against LGBT people", the Guardian columnist said, before accusing the presenter and another guest of "deflecting" the attacker's motive.

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Owen Jones appeared on Sky News on Sunday evening to discuss the gay nightclub shooting in Orlando, which has claimed the lives of at least 50 people.

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The Guardian columnist, who was invited on to the show as a representative of the LGBT community to discuss British newspapers' front pages, became increasingly frustrated as fellow guest Julia Hartley-Brewer and host Mark Longhurst appeared to "deflect" the apparent motive behind the shooting during the segmen.

As many as 50 people died after a gunman – named as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida – opened fire around 2am local time on Sunday in the busy gay nightclub Pulse.

Fifty-three people were also injured in the attack, the single worst shooting atrocity in modern U.S. history.

Mateen's father, Mir Seddique, told journalists his son had become angry after he saw two men kissing one another, roughly two months ago. Seddique speculated that this may have been the motivation for the attack.

On the segment, Jones said: "At the end of the day this was a homophobic hate crime, as well as terrorism, and it has to be called out, as, I have to say, on Sky News and lots of news channels there's not been many LGBT voices that I've heard."

He continued: "It is one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the western world for generations, and it has to be called out as such."

Both Hartley-Brewer and Longhurst took exception to Jones' comments that the attack was focused and targeted the LGBT community.

Longhurst interjected: "But it's something that's carried out against human beings, isn't it?" He returned to the theme by saying the shooting was an attack "on the freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves".

"It was an intentional attack against LGBT people," Jones said.

The columnist became increasingly frustrated at both Hartley-Brewer and Longhurst, noting that had Mateen walked into a synagogue and murdered Jewish individuals, "you would be talking about it as an anti-Semitic attack. This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people."

Eventually, unbuttoning his microphone, Jones said: "I've had enough of this," and walked off the set.

Online, many applauded Jones' actions and criticised Sky News and the presenters.

Fair play to Owen Jones for walking out of Sky News over the #OrlandoShooting, a vile hate crime against LGBT people.

So much to respect for @OwenJones84. #OrlandoShooting needs to be called for what it is #HomophobicTerrorism

Watching #SkyPapers and @OwenJones84 was absolutely right to refuse to participate any longer. Attempt to downplay homophobia disgusting

London assembly Labour member Tom Copley and Labour MP Wes Streeting were among those who tweeted their support for Jones.

Still coming to terms with the horrifying attack in Orlando. Switch on Twitter & see that appalling #skypapers clip. Well done @OwenJones84

Not often I'm lost for words, but this Sky paper review with @OwenJones84... I'm with Owen 100%.

Infuriating to see Sky News pretending victims' sexuality was irrelevant to #Orlando. It wasn't.

I don't blame @OwenJones84 at all for walking out on Sky Papers - this made my blood boil just watching

100% behind @OwenJones84. Watched this agape / angry as hell. Just astonishing.

In response to the incident, and anger directed at her on social media, Hartley-Brewer insisted on Twitter that she had nothing to apologise for.

50 people were murdered simply for being gay. I think we should all be angry about THAT, not about some contrived offence taken on a tv show

Trust me, I will not be apologising. I said absolutely nothing for which I need to apologise.

A short while later, Jones himself posted about the event, and urged people to not attack Hartley-Brewer online.

Orlando was both a terrorist attack and a homophobic attack on LGBT people - this really isn't hard.

Jones also wrote a Guardian column that referenced the incident, which was published on Monday afternoon. He argued that the event showed the lengths to which some in the media would go to ignore homophobia.

Orlando was both a terrorist attack and a homophobic attack on LGBT people. It was both the worst mass shooting in US history, and the worst targeted mass killing of LGBT people in the western world since the Holocaust. It is possible for an atrocity to be more than one thing at the same time. You are not compelled to select one option or the other. Life – with both its horrors and its joys – is incredibly complicated, and we have a rich language able to capture its complexities.

Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at

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