Special Report

Liberal Group Cited in Terrorism Case

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the attack on the Family Research Center.

By 5.2.13

Leo Johnson, a black man, has never received an apology from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Not a word.

Which is passing strange for a group that proclaims itself to be “a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.”

Johnson, the African-American building manager and security guard for the Family Research Council (FRC) was shot and wounded last August 15 by an angry gay activist, Floyd Corkins. Corkins was angry over the FRC’s support for heterosexual marriage. Researching the group on the Internet, he found that the website for the left-wing activist SPLC had listed the FRC as a “hate group.” 

The FRC was listed in this fashion, says the group’s president, Tony Perkins, merely because the conservative group supported marriage between a man and a woman.

That is not the reason for the listing, counter-claims the SPLC’s Senior Fellow Mark Potok.

We’ll get to this in a moment. But first -- the facts of the attack on the FRC by Floyd Corkins.

In a U.S. Government “Sentencing Memorandum” filed on April 19 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Corkins’ intent to commit mass murder, beginning with Leo Johnson, is chillingly detailed. So too is the alarming role of the Southern Poverty Law Center described in a case that marks the first domestic terrorism charge ever made in Washington, D.C.

Corkins, who pled guilty in February to an “Act of Terrorism while Armed (Count IV), Assault with Intent to Kill while Armed as to Mr. Johnson (Count II), and Interstate Transportation of a Firearm and Ammunition (Count I),” was scheduled to be sentenced the other week. Abruptly he had his moment of truth pushed back until later this month -- a curious coincidence since the day of his April sentencing just happened to coincide with the news of the Boston Marathon terror attack dominating the media. The requested penalty: 45 years in prison.

To read the Sentencing Memorandum is not only to understand just how close the nation’s capital came to mass murder in the name of left-wing politics. It opens the entire can of worms that has become the Southern Poverty Law Center itself. Raising questions about the American Left and their historic dependence on violence, the manipulation of both history and language, and the insidious influence in both the U.S. government itself as well as the liberal media of what is increasingly seen -- even by some on the Left -- as a powerful special interest group running what one liberal called a “fraud.” Financed in part by money “earned” by investments in swindler Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi schemes.

Let’s begin with the events of August 15. Here is the outline as written up in the Examiner:

Corkins appeared at the FRC’s Chinatown office on Aug. 15 armed with 9mm handgun. He reportedly told Security Guard Leo Johnson, “I don’t like your politics” and fired the gun after Johnson refused to let him in. Johnson was wounded in the arm, but still managed to wrestle the gun away from Corkins, who was subsequently arrested.

Now let’s shift to the Sentencing Memorandum, beginning with Corkins’ direct answers when questioned by the FBI. (Here’s a brief video.)

Recall as well that the incident took place not long after the kerfuffle over the fast food chain Chick-fil-A, in which the company chairman had said he believed in traditional marriage. That once-upon-a-time completely uncontroversial statement launched a flurry of protests from the Left, which in turn produced a stunning backlash of support for Chick-fil-A. Thousands showed up at the chain’s restaurants across the country to buy Chick-fil-A sandwiches as a show of support for traditional marriage. Understanding that, here’s the Corkins transcript:

FBI Agent: [W]hat was your intention… You’re… a political activist you said?

Corkins: Yeah, I wanted to kill the people in the building and then smear a Chicken-fil-A sandwich on their face

FBI Agent: And you, what was your intention when you went in there with the gun?

Corkins: Uh, it was to kill as many people as I could.

Corkins was not only armed, he was carrying a virtual arsenal in his backpack consisting of a “loaded semi-automatic pistol…. two additional loaded magazines, and a box of ammunition.” In addition, his backpack contained fifteen Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

Upon his arrival:

At approximately 10:46 A.M., the defendant arrived in front of the FRC’s secured front door. To gain access to the building, he falsely told Johnson, who was manning the lobby’s receptionist desk at the time, that he was there for an interview as a prospective intern. Upon gaining entry, the defendant approached the receptionist desk and Johnson, and shortly thereafter attempted to shoot and kill him.

Three FRC security cameras captured the shooting incident, almost in its entirety. An exterior FRC security camera captured Corkins entering the front door of the FRC. A second camera positioned inside the lobby captured Corkins approaching the front reception desk, behind which Johnson was seated. The two men engaged in a brief verbal exchange while Corkins stood directly in front of the waist-high desk. After Johnson asked to see the defendant’s identification, Corkins unshouldered his backpack, set it down on the floor in front of the desk, and bent down to retrieve something from inside it. Meanwhile, Johnson stood up and moved to one side of the desk. Shortly thereafter, Corkins stood back up and leveled his pistol at Johnson’s head/upper body, prompting Johnson to duck and then lunge for Corkins and the gun. Before Corkins couldmfire an initial shot, Johnson grabbed Corkins, and the two men struggled. During this struggle, Corkins fired his pistol three times, one shot of which struck Johnson in the left forearm area. Despite the gunshot wound and Corkins’s subsequent discharges of the gun, Johnson succeeded over the course of the next 15-20 seconds in disarming Corkins and forcing him to the ground and onto his belly. Johnson then stood over Corkins, subduing him with the weapon. Around this same time, Corkins stated to Johnson in sum and substance, “It’s not about you,” it’s about the FRC and its policies.

An FRC employee frantically dialed 911 and within minutes the Washington Metropolitan Police swarmed inside and arrested Corkins. Among the items in his possession was a list of four other conservative organizations that Corkins intended to visit -- all supporting traditional marriage.

After his arrest, Corkins made plain his intent. Reads the Sentencing Memorandum:

In his statement, Corkins provided a clear and detailed account of the facts and circumstances relevant to the shooting incident, including acknowledging that: (1) he 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.

He was a political activist and considered the FRC a lobbying group. He committed the shooting for political reasons. He had identified the FRC as an anti-gay organization on the Southern Poverty Law Center website.

Catch that? Corkins “had identified the FRC as an anti-gay organization on the Southern Poverty Law Center website.”

The Memorandum continues:

Consistent with his statement to the FBI, a subsequent search of Corkins’s 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. The FBI later recovered from Corkins’s home several printed Mapquest and Google maps, dated August 12, 2012, for directions to the FRC and the second organization, as well as the pad of stationery paper used by Corkins to create his handwritten list of targets.

Now.

First, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, has quite specifically said:

“Let me be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shots yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues ...”

Perkins could not be clearer. It was Corkins who pulled the trigger, Corkins who is responsible.

Yet Perkins has also said that “… Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations 'hate groups' because they disagree with them on public policy.” 

In an interview with The American Spectator, Perkins was specifically asked if the SPLC itself could be defined as a hate group, to which Perkins said no. He did say that the SPLC has the “intention to intimidate.” Perkins went on to note that whatever the FRC’s views on gays may be, like everyone else in America the FRC has “every right”--as does the SPLC--to discuss the issue from their point of view. But that “the record suggests” that the SPLC has an “anti-Christian” bias and has decided to become “the enforcer for gay activists” as issues of gay rights are discussed. In essence, said Perkins, the SPLC seeks to be both “player and referee” in these debates, marginalizing opponents by using its access to both government and the liberal media.

It is on precisely that point -- the historic intention to intimidate that Perkins cites and is in fact a hallmark of the American Left -- that the SPLC now finds itself struggling for credibility in the wake of the FRC shooting. A shooting that is, as noted, officially listed as an “act of terror” right up there with the Boston Marathon bombing.

What troubles here is that in a democratic society a left-wing group--a group notorious for both its politics and financing -- gets to set itself up as some sort of quasi-authoritative organization that decides in gold standard fashion what is hate and what is not, who are the “haters” and who are not. The SPLC’s so-called “Teaching for Tolerance” program, for example, boasts of being

…one of the nation’s leading providers of anti-bias education resources, we reach hundreds of thousands of educators and millions of students annually through our award-winning Teaching Tolerance magazine, multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, professional development resources like our Teaching Diverse Students Initiative and special projects like Mix It Up at Lunch Day. These materials are provided to educators at no cost.

And that’s before insinuating itself into the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, where its work emerges in official government doings.

Meaning reports like the DHS report on “Rightwing Extremism” in April 2009 that cited pro-life groups. Or a U.S. Army email that advised officers to monitor their own ranks for so-called “hate” groups--and had the “Religious extremism” of evangelical Christianity and Catholicism lumped in with al Qaeda and Hamas. Suffice to say, there are other examples that illustrate the problem, ironically including the presence of the SPLC president on a DHS working group on, “Countering Violent Extremism Working Group”.

Really.

And that’s before being regularly summoned by the media to discuss hate groups--discussions that curiously seem never to mention the SPLC’s left-wing agenda. Which is perhaps why the SPLC admitted here, as reported in National Review, that: “We’re really not set up to cover the extreme Left.”

There’s a point. Why investigate yourself?

Let’s begin with the issue that is at the center of the FRC shooting: same-sex marriage and gay rights. As we have written here back in the fall of 2006, no less then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and all of San Francisco officialdom turned out in a 2001 gay pride parade that honored -- as the parade’s grand marshal -- one Harry Hay. Hay, now deceased, was not just a gay rights advocate. Harry Hay, as we detailed, was a strong supporter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association or NAMBLA. Among Hay’s famous views on sex between adult men and boys was this:

Because if the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world.

For his beliefs Hay was the parade’s honoree, celebrated as noted by no less than a future Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and every star in the San Francisco political galaxy applauding and cheering Harry Hay.

Now cut to one of the SPLC’s reasons for declaring the FRC is a hate group.

Here is SPLC activist Mark Potok accusing Tony Perkins of falsehoods. The key point of which I have put in bold print:

Those falsehoods include the claim, repeated again and again over the years by Perkins and his fellow gay-bashing zealots, that gay men molest children at far higher rates than straight men do; that pedophilia, in Perkins’ 2010 words, is “a homosexual problem.” Or how about this, from an earlier FRC pamphlet: “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.” Yeah, right.

In fact, that was exactly what Harry Hay was about with his support for NAMBLA. And, again, there he was riding in the 2001 San Francisco gay pride parade and being celebrated by no less then Minority Leader Pelosi and all the rest.

The point here, of course, is that Perkins and the FRC’s beliefs are far from bizarre much less hateful. They have in fact been confirmed by that decidedly official celebration of Harry Hay by Pelosi and the entire San Francisco political structure all the way back in 2001. A celebration that, by choosing to honor Harry Hay, was at bottom about furthering the mainstreaming of Harry Hay’s beliefs. Which, again, in Hays’ own words, were that parents should “know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world.”

What Hay was about in that quote was exactly what Mark Potok says is not so: recognizing “pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.” To suggest this, says Potok, is what qualifies the FRC as a “hate group.”

In a democratic society one can agree or disagree with Hay, Pelosi or Perkins. But to single out the FRC as some sort of hate group for its views--views that were once endorsed by Jimmy Carter’s White House--not to mention because the FRC is unafraid to discuss the issue of gays and minor children--an issue that was in fact promoted by Harry Hay and celebrated by Nancy Pelosi and the rest--is itself bizarre.

Unless.

Unless what?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal. From which came the immortal line of Bob Woodward’s famous source “Deep Throat.” The quote?

“Follow the money.”

As it turns out, the Capital Research Center has done just that--and the CRS is not alone. The CRS investigation of the SPLC by James Simmons that appeared in October of 2012 was tellingly titled: 

“Southern Poverty Law Center: Wellspring of Manufactured Hate”

In which Simmons writes:

The Southern Poverty Law Center began with an admirable purpose but long ago transformed into a machine for raising money and launching left-wing political attacks. Lately it’s become more of a threat to free speech and civil debate than a defender of the weak or a foe of violent extremism. It has also taken in millions from the Picower Foundation, whose own funds came largely from founder Jeffry Picower’s “investing” in his old friend Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Simmons tells a story, in vivid detail, of SPLC founder Morris Dees as someone who has become, in the words of one liberal, “the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement, though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.” The reference, of course, to the famous television evangelist and his late wife whose PTL (“Praise the Lord”) empire came crashing down amid allegations of criminal activities with PTL’s extensive fundraising.

In other words, if God was at the center of enriching Jim and Tammy Faye, the Dees liberal critic is alleging that hate is being used by Dees and the SPLC to the same purpose. In fact, the SPLC has been the subject of harshly critical articles in left-wing publications, such as this one that appeared in the Nation (here) in 2009 and was later discussed by its author, the late Alexander Cockburn, here. In the latter, Cockburn identified “the arch-salesman of hate-mongering, Mr. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Said Cockburn of the SPLC’s role in the era of Obama:

Without skipping a beat, the mailshot moguls, who year after year make money selling the notion there’s been a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, have used the election of a black president to say that, yes, hate is on the rise and America ready to burst apart at the seams, with millions of extremists primed to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other….

Got that line? With “a Bible tucked under the other (arm)”?

What is the Family Research Council? Its mission statement reads that it is the “Family Research Council's mission is to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”

From a Christian worldview.

In other words, Cockburn charged that the SPLC is about making money by selling the notion that, among others, Christians are “a massed legion of haters.” This is precisely the charge Perkins makes of the SPLC.

The FRC is a Christian group. Therefore, to keep the SPLC in the tall money cotton--using Cockburn’s point and putting it with Perkins, targeting the Family Research Council may have been just one more way to make money. (And “target” is the word. Recall that fuss after the Gabby Giffords shooting that a Sarah Palin group had used the word “target” in selecting Giffords and other liberal congressional races? And that the group had used a “crosshair” on its map? Well, so too does the SPLC do the same. Cast your cursor over the SPLC “Hate Map”--found here--and yes indeed, you are presented with a crosshair that illustrates the SPLC’s “targeting.” Outrage from the left at this? Are you kidding. Silencio.)

Bear in mind that the FRC is a group so “radical” its views on traditional marriage were in fact endorsed by Jimmy Carter’s White House.

What the SPLC is really about, goes the charge from the left, is the money.

The liberal Harper’s magazine wrote a blistering critique of Dees in an article titled:

The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center profits from intolerance

Included was this stark admission from Dees’ business partner Millard Fuller:

"Morris and I...shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money. We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich."

Again, catch the phrase:

“We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.”

In addition to describing Dees’ lifestyle (the 2000 Harper's article described “a 200-acre estate appointed with tennis courts, a pool, and stables”), it also quoted Stephen Bright, the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

It should be noted here that the Southern Center for Human Rights is a left-of-center criminal rights organization. During the Iraq War’s Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the New York Times left-wing columnist Bob Herbert contrasted the treatment of prisoners by the Bush administration to those represented by Bright’s Southern Center for Human Rights, lauding the work of Bright’s group.

And what is Bright’s opinion of the Southern Poverty Law Center? Here’s how Harper’s wrote it up:

"You are a fraud and a conman," the Southern Center's director, Stephen Bright, wrote in a 1996 letter to Dees, and proceeded to list his many reasons for thinking so, which included "your failure to respond to the most desperate needs of the poor and powerless despite your millions upon millions, your fund-raising techniques, the fact that you spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly."

So what do we have here?

What we have at the core is a dangerous attempt by elements of the American Left to declare any view that displeases them as “hate”--and any group that advocates that view as a so-called “hate group.”

What we have is a group--the Southern Christian Poverty Law Center that is, using Bright’s words in Harper’s, “a fraud.” Run by a “conman” whose “overriding purpose” (in the words of Dees’s partner) is “making a pile of money (and is) not particular...” about how it’s done. And how it’s done is by (per the Nation's Cockburn) “selling the notion there’s been a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters…”

Like the Family Research Council. A notion so absurd on its face that even the Washington Post’s liberal columnist Dana Milbank dismissed it out of hand, saying after the shooting:

I disagree with the Family Research Council’s views on gays and lesbians. But it’s absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church…

All of this came together last August 12 in the fevered mind of Floyd Corkins as he sat in front of his computer, pulled up the SPLC website, and used that as his guide for shooting Leon Johnson three days later. That would be August 15, the day Corkins the gay activist with a gun planned, according to the U.S. government’s Sentencing Memorandum, to “…kill the people in the building and then smear a Chicken-fil-A sandwich on their face…..to kill as many people as I could.”

Tony Perkins tells us that the FRC has 50-60 people in the FRC building doing analytical research--and that the experience of a shooter determined to come into their offices and “kill as many people” as he could has been a shock to these employees. In fact, the Sentencing Memorandum includes statements from some of these people describing a seemingly eternal aftermath of daily reminders of the attack, accompanied by trauma, anger, and fear, wondering if there is more violence to come.

And what of Leo Johnson? The unarmed security guard--an African-American--who risked his life to stop Corkins the gay activist with the gun?

According to the Sentencing Memorandum: 

In his victim impact statement (”VIS”) to the Court, Mr. Johnson aptly summarized the adverse physical, psychological, and emotional impacts the defendant’s violent attack has had on his life. He has undergone successive surgeries to treat the devastating gunshot injuries to his left arm, followed by additional emergent care for life-threatening blood clots that formed as a result and months of “grueling physical therapy sessions.” Psychologically, Mr. Johnson regularly experiences anger and frustration at how the shooting has either materially inhibited or altogether ended his ability to perform important features of his job, participate in sports and workout (e.g., weightlifting), and consume some of his favorite foods and beverages--all aspects of life that he once enjoyed immensely. These feelings are fueled by what, as Mr. Johnson appropriately describes was “such a senseless crime. Many innocent people were going to be ruthlessly murdered and taken away from their families and friends forever with no remorse.

With no remorse. With no remorse.

Imagine that.

A man determined to murder the African-American Leo Johnson--a black man himself committing a liberal’s worse nightmare of black-on-black crime--shows up at a building in the capital of the world’s leading free nation. He calmly shoots Leo Johnson point blank because of information he read on the website of an organization that bills itself--really, no kidding--as “a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” And now? Now it doesn’t even have the decency to look Leo Johnson in the eye and apologize.

There must be a reason.

How about: There’s no money in it?

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director, an author, and a CNN commentator. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @Jeffjlpa1