ABC Speculates: Was Boston 'Homegrown Terror?' Features Mark Potok on 'Extreme Right'

The journalists of Good Morning America on Tuesday pointed a speculative finger in the wake of the Boston bombing. An ABC graphic wondered, "Could this be homegrown terror?" In a segment full of guesses, reporter Pierre Thomas featured leftist Mark Potok, the man who labeled the Family Research Council (FRC) a "hate group."

Regarding the date that the explosion occurred on, Potok linked, "The real Patriots Day is April 19th. That is the date that counts for people on the extreme right in the United States." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Other than Potok, no other expert voices were featured in the segment. News anchor Josh Elliott backed up Potok's assertions, theorizing, "One big clue could be Monday's date, April 15th. The anniversaries of some of the most harrowing incidents in domestic terror are coming this week." Thomas then went on to highlight David Koresh and the Oklahoma City bombing. The justification? They also happened in April.

At the very end of the segment, Thomas backtracked slightly, allowing, "But for every conspiracy theory about domestic extremists or international terrorists there is this fact: April has seen its share of random senseless violence." This disclaimer aside, the segment hinted about who might be responsible.

In comparison, the rest of the show was restrained in assigning blame, especially to the possibility of international terrorism. Later, reporter Brian Ross cautioned, "But at this point, authorities say they do not know enough to rule in or rule out domestic or international terrorism. George?" Ross, it should be pointed out, when on television hours after the July 2012 mass shooting in Colorado. With no evidence, he attempted to connect the Tea Party to the slaughter.

Co-anchor George Stephanopoulos warned that the bombing "doesn't seem to have the hallmark or clues that we normally associate with al Qaeda attacks."

The closest comparable example to the domestic theory floated by Thomas came when Martha Raddatz said of the attacks: "They weren't enormous bombs but it is– they are both like bombings in Iraq and in Afghanistan."

Potok's organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has a long history of smearing conservatives as "haters" and bigots. After a gunman attacked the FRC offices, President Tony Perkins said of the shooter, Floyd Corkins: "[He] was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center."

A transcript of the Pierre Thomas segment, which aired at 7:35am ET on April 16, follows:


JOSH ELLIOTT: We're going to turn now to the very latest on the investigation unfolding. Authorities working this morning to connect so many dots. One big clue could be Monday's date, April 15th. The anniversaries of some of the most harrowing incidents in domestic terror are coming this week and ABC's Pierre Thomas in Washington has been tracking all the latest and has that right now for us. Good morning, Pierre.

ABC GRAPHIC: Terror at the Boston Marathon: Could This Be Homegrown Terror?

PIERRE THOMAS: Good morning, Josh. My sources tell me it's the evidence on scene and witnesses that will break open this case. The list of potential suspects could be long because investigators know this stretch of April is one with a dark history. This Friday, April 19th, is also the anniversary of two of the most traumatic days in the country's recent history. In 1993, a 51-day standoff between federal law enforcement and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh ended with 80 dead, including 25 children when Koresh refused to surrender peacefully. On the same day two years later, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168, including 19 children in the building's day-care center.

MARK POTOK (Senior fellow, Southern Poverty Law Center): That attack was specifically designed as payback for the government's role in Waco two years earlier.

THOMAS: For those who hate America and know something of its history, Monday had particular meaning. In Massachusetts Monday was a state holiday. Patriots' day commemorating the first shots fired in the American Revolution during the battles of Lexington and Concord fought near Boston in 1775.

POTOK: The real Patriots Day is April 19th. That is the date that counts for people on the extreme right in the United States. As it happens, Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day on the third Monday of the month.

THOMAS: But for every conspiracy theory about domestic extremists or international terrorists there is this fact: April has seen its share of random senseless violence, aimed at the innocent and vulnerable in public places. Soft targets. On this day six years ago the Virginia Tech massacre and this Saturday April 20th marks 14 years since the deadly Columbine school shooting. Investigators are mindful of all of this. But my sources tell me today the priority is simply to go where the evidence points, George.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org