CNN anchor Rick Sanchez and guest Mark Potok of the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center concluded that there was a “disconcerting” infiltration of militia groups into tea party and health care town hall protests during a segment on Thursday’s Newsroom. The two focused on the appearance of armed people at these events, and one individual’s apparent connection to a militia which plotted violence.
Sanchez interviewed Potok at the bottom of the 3 pm Eastern hour on how Ernest Hancock, a Ron Paul supporter and online radio host, reportedly defended the members of a militia called the Viper Team. Hancock also interviewed an acquaintance of his who openly-carried an AR-15 near a venue where President Obama was speaking. Before introducing Potok, the CNN anchor used a clip from a former Secret Service agent he interviewed to hint that Hancock and his acquaintance were “gun nuts.” He then played a clip of the rifle-carrying individual himself, who railed against taxation which redistributed wealth and a tyranny of the majority: “I want this and that, this and that, and I’ll just vote and take it from you. The burden of all this thievery gets too thick.....we will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote.” Sanchez then implied that these words were a threat of violence: “Somehow, the words ‘forcefully resist’ coming from a man with an AR-15 outside a presidential event is just a little unsettling.”
After calling out Hancock for “pretending to be a reporter” in his interview of his armed colleague, the anchor turned to SPLC director and asked, “You think maybe Americans should start to get a little concerned about this?” Before outlining his case against Hancock, Potok blasted the rifle-carrying individual’s statement:
POTOK: You know, not only does he say he is going to resist majority rule- which, after all, is the way we run our country as a general matter here- at the point of the gun- but he says, you know, to him, taxation is theft. Well, you know, I guess it’s news to him, but that’s how the civilized world has run for the last few thousand worlds- years. And you know, I just don’t know how we could proceed as a society otherwise. It is really quite a remarkable through line from the militias and the thinking of the militias to some of the people we’re seeing coming out in these town halls.
The first part of Potok’s answer is strange, particularly since he represents an organization that has sought to protect racial minorities against the violent intimidation of groups like the KKK. The SPLC director then described the Viper Team militia and how several of its members were convicted of conspiring to blow up federal buildings in the 1990s, and labeling Hancock as being “right out of the militia world.”
Near the end of the segment, Sanchez asked his final question: “Is it something that you’ve seen a pattern of where some of these people are somehow marrying or melding their way into these tea party events, and is that disconcerting for you?”
Potok answered by making a tenuous connection between a slogan used by some anti-ObamaCare protesters and convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh:
POTOK: I think it’s very disconcerting. This is the first case where we have absolutely rock-solid evidence that, in fact, people associated with the militia movement directly and its ideas are some of the same people who are disrupting these town meetings. But it is worth remembering that last week, one of the first fellows to show up in New Hampshire with a gun strapped to his hip, saying that ‘the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants,’ and also saying that illegal aliens should be sent home with a bullet in their brain- you know, those words- that paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson- those are precisely the words that were on the back of the t-shirt worn by Timothy McVeigh when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. In other words, that idea of watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants is a core militia slogan and idea. So, I think it’s very worrying. I think we’re seeing a kind of coalescing of these groups or at least the ideas behind them.Sanchez expressed his agreement with this answer: “I think ‘disconcerting’ fits the bill.”