Floyd Corkins Jr. pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wounding a security guard at the Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group fighting against gay marriage, on August 15 last year. Corkins was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the time – the restaurant chain noteworthy for its public, Christian-based opposition to gay marriage – and intended to rub the sandwiches in his victims' faces.
The New York Times made do with a brief from Reuters that did not mention a vital angle: That FRC was brought to the attention of Corkins via the website of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled FRC a "hate group."
The Washington Post at least mentioned that detail deep inside Ann Marimow's Metro section story Thursday.
Compare how the Times ignored a genuine link of an assassination attempt to a left-wing political website, to how it made a phony connection between conservative politician Sarah Palin's websiste and the schizophrenic assassin Jared Lee Loughner. After Loughner killed six people in his failed attempt to assassinate Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in January 2011, many in the media, including the Times, suggested that an old campaign strategy map on the website of Palin's political action committee may have inspired the killer to act.
A front-page Times story on Sunday, January 9, 2011 included these accusatory paragraphs.
Ms. Giffords was also among a group of Democratic House candidates featured on the Web site of Sarah Palin's political action committee with cross hairs over their districts, a fact that disturbed Ms. Giffords at the time.
"We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list," Ms. Giffords said last March. "But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that."
The image is no longer on the Web site, and Ms. Palin posted a statement saying "my sincere condolences are offered to the family of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice." (Late Saturday, the map was still on Ms. Palin's Facebook page.)
Times media reporter Brian Stelter threw out this bit of red meat on Twitter: "For the record, there has been no mention of Sarah Palin's target map on any cable news channel." He didn't have to wait long.
But the accusations against Palin were completely false. Her online campaign map did not inspire Loughner, a schizophrenic whose web pages were filled with crazed syllogisms and dominated by thoughts of mind control. There was no indication Loughner was aware of Palin's electoral map, and he had been obsessed with Giffords before Palin’s map even existed.
By contrast, attempted assassin Floyd Corkins did discover the Family Research Council on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Washington Examiner reported that "Corkins told the agents that he identified the FRC as an anti-gay organization on the website for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization." The SPLC even has its own convenient "hate map," which Corkins may have used.
Most galling, the Times even used the SPLC as a source in a strained attempt to link the killer Loughner to the "far right" back on January 10, 2011:
Some people who study right-wing militia groups and those who align themselves with the so-called Patriot movement said Mr. Loughner's comments on subjects like the American currency and the Constitution, which he posted online in various video clips, were strikingly similar in language and tone to the voices of the Internet's more paranoid, extremist corners....The position, for instance, that currency not backed by a gold or silver standard is worthless is a hallmark of the far right and the militia movement, said Mark Potok, who directs research on hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
-- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site.