James Holmes at his March arraignment. (CBS)
Aurora theater shooter James Holmes has supposedly become a devout Muslim while in prison, praying five times a day and following a strict halal diet.
The report from Britain's Daily Mail tabloid cited the thick beard Holmes sported to his March 12 arraignment, along with an anonymous prison source to the National Enquirer, in claiming the inmate's conversion.
"He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels," the report said.
The story was picked up by a cadre of conservative news outlets who jumped on the story with barely-disguised glee.
"Did he recently convert or was there some knowledge about his leanings before the shooting?" asks anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller.
"This is far from proven, but if Holmes did indeed covert to Islam, he wouldn’t be the first prisoner to go Mohammedan behind bars," writes David Horowitz on his Front Page blog. "There are enough Muslims engaging in mass killings. Having a non-Muslim mass killer convert is like shipping coals to Newcastle or murderers to Islam."
Both the Daily Mail and the National Enquirer famously get much of their "reporting" wrong -- but thanks to their willingness to pay sources, will catch the occasional major scoop.
Over at Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald explains why this "reporting" is more than problematic, but also just a little too convenient:
Now, it’s entirely possible that Holmes has converted to Islam, and even that he brainwashed himself into ex-post-facto justifying his killing with Islam or anything else as Holmes is severely disturbed, by all accounts, and could delude himself into thinking anything.
But does that say anything about Islam? Of course not. It says something about mental illness. If Holmes suddenly became a devout Pentecostal or Hindu in prison, would these bloggers be connecting the religion to the shooting in the way they are doing now?
It’s also funny to see conservative blogs suddenly cite the National Enquirer as a reputable source when the tabloid publishes something that conforms to a narrative they’re seeking to push."
Holmes, who allegedly killed 12 people during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July, last week pleaded not guilty to 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges by reason of insanity.