Please see updated story here.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins took to Fox News Thursday to say groups that oppose his organization are responsible for creating the atmosphere that led to the shooting at its headquarters Wednesday.“Let me be very clear here that Floyd Corkins was responsible for the wounding of one of our colleagues and friends at the Family Research Council,” Perkins said. “But I believe he was given a license to do that by a group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center who labeled us a hate group because we defend the family and stand for traditional orthodox Christianity.”
In late 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the FRC a “hate group” over its anti-gay rhetoric, such as that by a senior staffer suggesting same-sex behavior be criminalized. The SPLC rating put the FRC — long a mainstay in Republican political circles — on the same list as the Aryan Nations, Nation of Islam and KKK.
The FRC and other social conservative groups rejected the label. And in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting, which was allegedly perpetrated by a man who was opposed to the group’s politics, Perkins said the SPLC needs to watch its words.
“I think it’s time for people to realize what the Southern Poverty Law Center is doing with their reckless labeling of organizations they disagree with,” he said.
In the hours after the shooting, which left one FRC security guard wounded, a number of LGBT advocacy groups condemned the shooting and offered their condolences to the FRC. Perkins told Fox he appreciated the sentiment.
“We have had a number of civil conversations with those on the other side and the issues we work on. I appreciate them speaking out against such violence,” Perkins said. “There is no room for that in a society such as ours. If we want differences of opinions, that’s fine. But let’s get all the facts out on the table and debate the issues. Let’s not use intimidation or acts of terrorism to try and silence portions of our public. ”
The SPLC released a statement on Wednesday in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, saying “we condemn all acts of violence and are following the story closely.”
Late update: Perkins called the shooting an incident of domestic terrorism at a press conference outside FRC’s headquarters:
“I’m not a big supporter of the hate crimes statute. What I believe is that if you commit an act of violence, it is a crime. I don’t care why you do it, you did it. When you talk about acts of domestic terrorism, terrorism is to intimidate and marginalize and silence a portion of the population. I think this could very well fit in that category.”