Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (AP)
(CNSNews.com) – Co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center Morris Dees said his group’s “Hate Map” “doesn’t cause anybody to attack,” despite Floyd Lee Corkins’ admission that he targeted the Family Research Council (FRC) after going to the center’s website.
As Corkins told the FBI after his arrest, he learned of the FRC online, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
Corkins attempted a mass shooting on Aug. 15, 2012, opening fire at the Family Research Council and wounding Security Guard Leo Johnson.
Armed with more than 95 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-a sandwiches, Corkins told the FBI that he chose the FRC as his first target after looking at a list of “anti-gay” groups on the SPLC’s website.
The Family Research Council is still listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map” as “anti-gay.”
CNSNews.com questioned Dees about the Hate Map when he was in Washington, D.C., last week, asking whether his group has ever considered removing the FRC since the revelation from Corkins.
“Well, first of all, having a group on our Hate Map doesn’t cause anybody to attack them anymore than they attacked us for one thing or another,” Dees said. “This group that says gay people—statements attributed to their people said that gay people caused the Holocaust. Demonstrably false things they say about gay people.
“It’s not on our Hate Map because they’re against gay people—and many, the Catholic Church is against people who are gay, so as others—it’s because of the demonstrably false things they say about people that are just total lies that demean gay people, they cause people to attack gay people,” he said.
“They claim that somebody attacks them because they say hateful things, think about how many gay people get bashed because these people say that gay men are pedophiles, which is demonstrably false,” Dees said.
In a statement to CNSNews.com, the Catholic League took umbrage with Dees’s remarks.
“Morris Dees is a man in search of people and institutions to hate,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said. “Branding the Family Research Council a hate group is not only irresponsible, it trivializes the status of hate-ridden groups that have claimed real victims.”
Floyd Corkins is taken into custody outside the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 15, 2012. (AP Photo)
“Now Dees is casting the Catholic Church as the enemy by misstating its teachings,” he said. “Nothing the Catholic Church has ever said about the moral status of homosexuals—which is as irrelevant as the moral status of heterosexuals—could possibly be construed as hateful.”
“Quite frankly, no amount of remedial education can help someone who can’t tell the difference between sexual orientation and sexual behavior,” Donohue said.
“Stupid or malicious, either way the guy [Dees] is a disgrace,” he said.
FRC Executive Vice President Gen. Jerry Boykin (ret.) told CNSNews.com, "The Southern Poverty Law Center’s reckless labeling has led to devastating consequences. Next week will be the one year anniversary of a terrorist shooting on our building that resulted in the shooting of our building manager. The Judge determined that it was an act of domestic terrorism after the shooter viewed the SPLC's hate map. Our team is still dealing with the fallout of the attack, that was intended to have a chilling effect on organizations that are simply fighting for their values."
"We are very disturbed that the Southern Poverty Law Center is now expanding its reckless attacks against the Catholic Church," said Boykin. "The SPLC has made false and inaccurate claims against the Family Research Council for years. The SPLC should fact check their own statements before making reckless accusations."
"Hate labeling is dangerous enough but outright misrepresentation of the facts further increases the likelihood of an attack on an organization similar to FRC," said the general.
CNSNews.com also tried to ask Dees about a double standard after former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s rhetoric was blamed for the shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tuscon, Ariz. Dees said he was not familiar with the case.
CNSNews.com asked: “Do you see any double standard about how Sarah Palin was used—they said the Tuscon shooting was because she had a target of that district—and they blame her for violence—“
“I’m not familiar with it, I’m not familiar with what you’re talking about there,” Dees said. “You’re way off my base there.”
“You’re not familiar with that at all?” CNSNews.com asked.
“No ma’am, I really am not,” he said.
In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center featured a post on its website on Jan. 21, 2011, entitled, "Expert: Political Rhetoric Likely a Factor in Arizona Shooting."
President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shootings at the University of Arizona on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“In Tucson, Giffords was Loughner’s primary target, the first to be shot,” the group wrote. “As Giffords recognized and acknowledged, she had been targeted in a particularly toxic re-election campaign. For example, in addition to being placed in Sarah Palin’s ‘crosshairs,’ her Tea Party-backed opponent ran the following invitation on his campaign website: ‘Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.’”
“It’s easy to see how the threats and rancor of that time could have provided a facilitating context for an angry, depressed person to act out – someone like Jared Loughner, intent on violence, who had easy access to an exceedingly deadly weapon,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
The shooting of Gabby Giffords and the other victims in Tucson received extensive national and international news coverage. President Barack Obama traveled to Tucson and gave a nationally televised speech on Jan. 12, 2011, during primetime, about the crime.
On Aug. 16, 2012, the day after Corkins shot up the FRC and wounded its security guard, FRC President Tony Perkins held a press conference and said: “Let me be clear, that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues and our friend Leo Johnson. But 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.”
“And I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation and what the FBI here has categorized as an act of domestic terrorism,” he said. “There’s no room for that in a society such as ours that works through differences that we have on issues in public policy through a peaceful means.”