Was the Texas bomber treated differently because he was white, Christian?

The New York Times is pushing back against criticism that it ignored the racial element of the Austin, Texas bombings and treated the bomber as a victim.

Mark Conditt was portrayed by authorities as not motivated by hatred, but was upset about his life, so he sent package bombs to people, allat least two of whom happened to be black.

Why isn’t this called terrorism? Because the government doesn’t call it terrorism, Marc Lacey, the national editor, said in a defense of the Times’ coverage today.

Under the law, terrorism is a violent, criminal act intended to intimidate civilians and governments for an ideological, political or religious purpose. In this case, we have yet to see evidence that the attacks in Texas were politically motivated, though certainly there has been suspicion that there was racial animus because the first two victims were African-American.

Lacey agreed that Conditt isn’t the victim in the story and defends the extent to which the Times went to understand his motivations, saying the paper has done the same for black murderers too.

We wrote of Micah Johnson, who killed five police officers and wounded seven others in Dallas in 2016: “There was a time when he was known as a well-mannered young man — a regular at his church and a pleasant presence on a tree-lined, suburban, multicultural street in a neighborhood called Camelot. He grew up to serve his country in Afghanistan.” He was African-American.

When it comes to Mark Conditt, we’ll continue reporting on what motivated these awful acts and we’ll share what we find. I have not a twinge of sympathy for him, and readers are right that our coverage should not leave the impression he was victimized.

In tweets, the Times described Conditt as “nerdy”, and said he came “from a godly family.”

“We probably shouldn’t have published a tweet describing how the suspect’s neighbors and peers viewed him without also providing the immediate and necessary contrast that he is suspected of killing Anthony Stephan House and Draylen Mason, and critically injuring others,” Cynthia Collins, the Times’ social media editor said.

“I can assure you that there is no effort underway to portray him as anything other than what he is, a murderer,” Lacey added.

But readers see a reason why it appears the Times treats white, Christian terrorist/murderers differently. Most of its staff is white and Christian.

“Had the Austin terrorist been Muslim, there would have been national hysteria. It’s a double standard and must be called out every time,” Hesham Hassaballa, a reader from Chicago, said.

“You literally have harder hitting profiles of black murder victims than of white Christian serial killers, added Dylan Brady, of Eugene, Ore.

The Times’ editors did not respond directly to either of those allegations.

Related: Turns out people get angry when you say white Americans are terrorists, too (PRI)