The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is supporting bookstores that have scheduled appearances with Stephen Jimenez, author of The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard. The book has met criticism for questioning aspects of the Matthew Shepard case, widely regarded as one of the most notorious anti-LGBT hate crimes.
Jamie McGonnigal, who writes TalkAboutEquality.com blog, has started a petition on Change.org to urge the 23 bookstores that have scheduled events with Jimenez to cancel them. “The fact that you are hosting this conspiracy theorist and LGBT hate crime denier on 15th anniversary of Matthew's gruesome murder only confirms the fact that you are in it only for the book sales,” he wrote in the petition.
In a letter sent to McGonnigal yesterday, ABFFE president Chris Finan said that the protest “demonstrates a poor understanding of bookselling and has the potential to stifle discussion of a significant historical event.” He added that McGonnigal has a right to his opinion, but that the "appropriate response to Mr. Jimenez’s book is to refute his argument, not to deny him the opportunity to speak in bookstores.”
As of yet, no bookstore has cancelled an event with the author. His appearance at Politics & Prose in Washington D.C.Wednesday night went off without any issues. In a letter to McGonnigal, P&P co-owner Bradley Graham wrote “Citizens must have opportunities to hear diverse and sometimes divergent views and to engage in respectful debate about them, even if those views are controversial."
UPDATE: Oct. 11, 2013, 11:00 a.m.
McGonnigal, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has said that he has no problem with a bookstore selling any particular book. "I do think however that by hosting an author and giving them a platform to speak, a book should first be vetted by the store. That was not the case with Politics & Prose and many of the other bookstores I've approached," said McGonnigal, who is also a contributor at the Huffington Post.
He also spoke to his views on the validity of Jimenez's claims in the book, saying that "Jimenez is the only person to have made the extraordinary leaps made from fact to fiction. I know we live in a world where gossip and innuendo is worshipped over truth, but denying hate crimes and vilifying a young man's memory who means so much to my community is where I draw the line."