WASHINGTON — Family Research Council President and former Louisiana legislator Tony Perkins on Thursday blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center for the shooting of an employee at the FRC headquarters in the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C.
Perkins said “reckless rhetoric” helped lead to a man shooting firearms in the office. He “was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Perkins said.
The FBI has reported Floyd Corkins, of Virginia, was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches and 50 rounds of ammunition when he entered the FRC building Wednesday and shot the unarmed building operations manager and security guard, Leo Johnson, who was able to wrestle Corkins to the ground after being shot in the arm.
Johnson is out of surgery and is expected to fully recover, Perkins said.
Its website says the nonprofit Family Research Council reviews and researches public policy from a Christian worldview.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has the FRC listed on its “hate map” for its “anti-gay” activities and policies. Some Chick-fil-A owners have donated funds to the FRC and many other organizations that lobby against gay marriage and other issues.
“How many unhinged individuals walk around with 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches and 50 rounds of ammo,” Perkins said.
Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow and editor of its Intelligence Report and Hatewatch blog, did not take long to respond in writing, calling Perkins’ remarks “outrageous.”
The FRC is listed as a hate group because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about gay and lesbian people and “not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage,” Potok stated Thursday.
Based in Montgomery, Ala., the Southern Poverty Law Center monitors, publicizes and sometimes sues extremist groups, according to the nonprofit civil-rights organization’s website.
“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,” Potok stated. “An FRC official has said he wanted to ‘export homosexuals from the United States.’ ”
“The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality,” Potok stated. “Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, 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 (gay) people. The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse — claims that are provably false. It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people.”
Potok called Wednesday’s shooting a tragedy and that the SPLC “deplores all violence, and our thoughts are with the wounded victim, Leo Johnson, his family and others who lived through the attack.”
Perkins said he saw Johnson when he came out of surgery and that he called Johnson a hero.
“He was still groggy and he said, ‘This hero business is hard work,’ ” Perkins said.
The Chick-fil-A controversy erupted last month when its president, Dan Cathy, talked publicly about his family’s opposition to gay marriage.
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” Cathy said at the time.
Corkins had strong feelings against those with anti-gay views, his parents reportedly said.
Although much less fatal, the alleged Corkins shooting comes in the same month as alleged white supremacist Wade Michael Page killed six people in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before being killed by police.