Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Thursday said the shooting at the conservative Christian organization's Washington, D.C., headquarters was an act of terrorism and he accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of fostering the climate that allowed the crime to occur….
The FRC head noted that while he holds [Floyd] Corkins solely responsible for the shooting, he believes the Southern Poverty Law Center must also be held accountable for its "reckless" labeling of the FRC as a hate group.
"Corkins was responsible for the wounding of one our colleagues and one of my friends yesterday here at the Family Research Council, but I believe he was given a license by a group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, who, as you pointed out earlier, labeled us a hate group because we defend the family and we stand for traditional, orthodox Christianity," Perkins said.
Two reactions. Number one: No, the SPLC did not give Floyd Corkins "a license" to start shooting at the Family Research Council, just as Glenn Beck did not give Byron Williams a license to plan a massacre at the Tides Foundation and just as the pro-life movement did not give Scott Roeder a license to murder an abortionist. Activists are not accountable for all the ways their words might be received. Corkins is responsible for his crime. Period.
Number two: Where do you think Perkins learned to mouth off like this? The SPLC might not be handing out licenses, but it sure is giving people lessons. When a crime is committed by someone you can plausibly (or even not-so-plausibly) associate with the right, the SPLC has levied these accusations as lustily as anyone. When Williams targeted Tides, the group proclaimed that the "rhetoric that helped inspire Williams to pack his car with guns and ammo and head toward San Francisco finds echo throughout the rightwing media world." After an assassin attempted to kill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords—and did kill six others—the SPLC ran an editorial headlined "Expert: Political Rhetoric Likely a Factor in Arizona Shooting," complete with an echo of those inane attempts to link the crime to Sarah Palin's target map. (The perp's politics and Palin's turned out to have pretty much nothing in common. But even if he were a devoted Palinite, she wouldn't have given him a license to shoot.) The folks at the SPLC certainly aren't the only ones who play this game. But they play it often enough that they shouldn't be surprised when they're hoisted with their own petard.