WASHINGTON — Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Thursday said he blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “reckless rhetoric” that led to a shooting at the FRC headquarters on Wednesday.
At a news conference earlier today, Perkins said that while the suspected shooter was responsible for wounding the group’s unarmed guard, advocacy groups such as the SPLC — which has labeled the FRC an “anti=gay hate group” — are responsible for creating the environment that let to the shooting.
On Wednesday, Floyd Corkins II, 28, from nearby Herndon, Va., tried to gain access to the FRC headquarters, and after complaining of the conservative group’s policies, brandished a 9 mm handgun when confronted by Leo Johnson, the FRC’s building operations manager, who also serves as security for the organization.
Johnson and Corkins reportedly engaged in an altercation, before Corkins fired, striking Johnson in the arm.
“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,” said Perkins said Thursday.
“And I believe the SPLC could be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation and what the FBI here has categorized as an action of domestic terrorism. There is no room for that in a society such as ours that works through differences we have on public policy through a peaceful means,” said Perkins.
Perkins expressed appreciation “to the groups and organizations that we do not agree with on many public policy issues who have also expressed their outrage at what took place here yesterday,” and called for an end “to the reckless rhetoric” that he said led to the shooting.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was quick to respond, calling Perkins’ allegations “outrageous,” and said it was the FRC who “routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse…”
“For more than 40 years, the SPLC has battled against political extremism and political violence. We have argued consistently that violence is no answer to problems in a democratic society, and we have strongly criticized all those who endorse such violence, whether on the political left or the political right,” said Mark Potok, Senior Fellow of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement posted on its website.
“The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence.”
“As the SPLC made clear at the time and in hundreds of subsequent statements and press interviews, we criticize the FRC for claiming, in Perkins’ words, that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem” — an utter falsehood, as every relevant scientific authority has stated. An FRC official has said he wanted to “export homosexuals from the United States.” The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality.”
The SPLC charged that Perkins “and his allies” are exploiting Wednesday’s shooting as “an opportunity to score points” and are “using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC’s criticisms of the FRC and the FRC’s criticisms of LGBT people.”