The recent murders of local prosecutors in a north Texas county -- possibly at the hands of white supremacists -- was the news hook for MSNBC's The Cycle to bring Heidi Beirich of the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on to the April 2 program. In introducing the guest and justifying her expertise, co-host Ari Melber merely described the SPLC as "a group that documents that state of hate groups in America." [video follows page break; MP3 audio here]
It fell to token conservative co-host S.E. Cupp to remind viewers that SPLC leans to the left and has been criticized by conservatives for "smearing religious and far-right groups and ignoring far-left hate groups." "Shouldn't people be aware of your ideological biases before they take seriously [SPLC's] claims of who they should be afraid of?" Cupp argued. A bemused Beirich insisted she had to "dispute the notion of the question on its premise," adding that:
The criticism that we get most heavily from the right-wing are complaints about our listing of groups like the Family Research Council or the American Family Association as anti-gay hate groups. And the fact of the matter is that those organizations are akin to many of the white supremacist organizations that we list in the sense that they lie about gay folks.
White supremacist groups lie about African-Americans.
In the case of something like the Family Research Council, they put out all kinds of defamatory information about how gays are child molesters at higher rates and so on, with the intention of destroying that particular population and making them appear to be lesser. So, you know, for us, it's a no-brainer to put groups like that on our hate list.
At that point, Cupp reminded Beirich that Corkins committed a "hate crime... when [he] stormed the [Family Research Council] building in D.C. with a bag full of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches." Oddly, Cupp forgot to mention Corkins had a semiautomatic pistol and shot the security guard, but that omission may not have been intention. Regardless, it might have confused viewers who didn't know about the August attack because of a lack of media coverage.
For her part, Beirich protested that the SPLC was "all about is trying to stop domestic terrorism" like Corkins's "disgusting, terrible incident."
Again, perhaps because Cupp was not quick on the draw, she failed to fire back that Corkins admitted at his sentencing that he was inspired by the SPLC website.
As Elizabeth Harrington of CNSNews.com, a sister site of NewsBusters, reported on February 6:
He admitted to opening fire at the FRC, which is a conservative, pro-family group, and wounding the security guard there. And his actions were designated an act of terrorism, to which he also pleaded guilty.
According to the “Statement of Offense,” assault with intent to kill is an “act of terrorism,” if it is committed with the requisite intent. As it states: “On August 15, 2012, the defendant assaulted [security guard Leo] Johnson and the FRC with the intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of the civilian population of the District of Columbia and/or the United Sattes; namely, any and all individuals associated with or supporting the FRC, like-minded organizations, or otherwise holding beliefs contrary to or advocating against gay marriage.”
In an interview with the FBI following the shooting, as provided in the “Statement of Offense,” Corkins said that “(1) intended to enter the FRC that day to kill as many people as possible and smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in their faces; (2) he intended to kill the guard who confronted him in the lobby (i.e., Johnson); and (3) he had taken substantial steps in the preceding week in furtherance of carrying out the crimes.” (See Floyd Lee Corkins II - Unstamped Statement of Offense.pdf)
In addition, as the statement reads, “He committed the shooting for political reasons. He had identified the FRC as an anti-gay organization on the Southern Poverty Law Center Website.”
It further reports, “Consistent with his statement to the FBI, a subsequent search of Corkins’ family computer revealed that on the afternoon of Sunday, August 12, Corkins used the computer to visit the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, as well as the websites for the FRC and the second organization on his handwritten list.”