Libs of Tiktok, Elon Musk and Donald Trump Jr. use school shooting to push anti-LGBTQ+ smears

Split image of Elon Musk and Donald Trump Jr.

After a tragic shooting at an Iowa high school, right-wing influencers – including Elon Musk, Donald Trump Jr. and Libs of TikTok – spread misinformation about recent mass shooters identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

A sixth grade student was killed and at least seven others – three staff members and four students – received injuries after the attacker opened fire on students returning from their Christmas break at Perry High School near Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday (4 January).

Ahmir Jolliff, 11, has been identified as the middle school student who was killed in the shooting, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said in a press release on Friday. 

The shooter was identified as Dylan Butler, a 17-year-old former student at the high school. Butler was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the agency said his manner of death has been ruled a suicide.

Butler’s motive for the attack is under investigation, with authorities seizing “large volumes of digital and social media evidence”. 

Law enforcement said the shooter made several social media posts in and around the time of the horrific incident. Butler’s social media accounts have since been taken down. 

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While Americans mourned the loss of another young person killed and others injured as a result of a school shooting, influential conservative figures engaged in spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation that the Iowa shooter was LGBTQ+ and once again suggested that trans people pose a higher risk of danger to others. 

Authorities have not commented publicly about Butler’s sexuality or gender identity. 

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Law enforcement officers are seen outside Perry Middle School and High School complex after a mass shooting took place on 4 January 2024 in Perry, Iowa. Right-wing figures have latched onto and spread misinformation that the shooter was part of the LGBTQ+ community and/or identified as trans
A sixth grade student was killed and at least seven others – three staff members and four students – wounded in a shooting at Perry High School in Iowa on 4 January. (Getty)

On the same day at the Perry High School shooting, Libs of TikTok posted an image of Butler on X/Twitter alongside an image of graffiti that reads “love your trans kids”, that was allegedly liked by an account linked to the gunman. 

The Libs of Tiktok account, which is run by Chaya Raichik, claimed Butler was a “trans genderfluid terrorist” before alleging that trans people are “extremists” and a “serious threat”. 

Raichik and her Libs of TikTok account posted lists that inaccurately linked several mass shooters to the LGBTQ+ community. NBC News noted these claims have either been disproven or remain unconfirmed. 

The Libs of TikTok post included allegations that the “modern LGBTQ+ movement is radicalising” young people “into becoming violent extremists”. 

Raichik and Libs of TikTok have gained increasing prominence within the right-wing media and online discourse in recent years. As their profile has grown, their attacks on the LGBTQ+ community also escalated. 

Libs of TikTok has been blamed for increased threats directed towards schools over anti-LGBTQ+ ‘groomer’ claims and hospitals providing gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth

Musk, who is no stranger to attacking the trans community or pushing anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theories online, amplified Libs of TikTok’s post by replying with two exclamation marks

He also responded to another right-wing post spreading misinformation that the Iowa mass shooter was trans, unfoundedly claiming such incidents were “happening a lot”

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Donald Trump Jr. reposted the tweet from Libs of TikTok on X/Twitter and baselessly wrote: “Per capita is there a more violent group of people anywhere in the world than radicalised trans activists???” 

Community members gather in Wiese park for a candlelight vigil following the morning shooting at the Perry Middle School and High School complex on 4 January 2024 in Perry, Iowa. Right-wing figures have latched onto and spread misinformation that the shooter was part of the LGBTQ+ community and/or identified as trans
Community members gather in Wiese park for a candlelight vigil following the morning shooting at the Perry Middle School and High School complex on 4 January 2024 in Perry, Iowa. (Getty)

Riley Gaines, an American former competitive swimmer who has repeatedly attacked the trans community, also jumped on the train of spreading misinformation that trans people are dangerous in the wake of the Iowa school shooting. 

In response to the Libs of TikTok post alleging the Iowa shooter identified as trans, Gaines alleged that trans people and allies are “lashing out” because “they’re told DAILY by media and our government that they’re victims of genocide”. 

“As long as they continue to be told they’re being oppressed, these acts will only increase,” she claimed. 

Historically, mass shooters have not been identified as part of the trans community 

There’s no solid evidence to support right-wing claims that shootings perpetrated by trans people are on the rise – despite attempts by conservatives push such rumours in the past

Trans people make up about 0.5 per cent of the US population, amounting to approximately 1.3 million adults living in the country, according to data from the CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System and Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The data was published in June 2020 as part of research on the trans population in the US by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Men make up 97 per cent of mass public shooters, according to The Violence Project database of mass shootings. The project, which is dedicated to studying the life histories of mass shooters and reducing violence through research, reported there have been 193 mass shootings since 1966.

“So with 0.6 per cent of the population, transgender people would expect to be involved in about one shooting,” an analysis by Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler reported in March 2023.

By the Gun Violence Archive’s criteria – which counts if a mass shooting involves a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter – trans people “would be expected to have committed at least 16 mass shootings since 2018”, Kessler said. 

“Instead there are just three possible cases cited by conservatives.”

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