(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, held a press conference Thursday afternoon, stating in no uncertain terms that while the suspected shooter was responsible for wounding the group's unarmed building operations manager, organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (that label FRC as a "hate" group) created the environment that ultimately led to Wednesday's shooting at the FRC offices in Washington, D.C.
Perkins held the press conference with the specific purpose of clearing up any misinformation that may be circulating about the shooting and the possible intent of the shooter, Floyd Corkins. However, he first wanted to thank the organizations – many of whom do not agree with FRC on matters of political policy such as traditional marriage – for their outpouring of support. And he also issued a challenge for them to take some additional steps.
"I want to express my appreciation to the groups and organizations that we do not agree with on many public policy issues, who have also expressed their outrage at what took place here yesterday. For that I appreciate it. But I would ask they go a step further and join us in calling for an end to the reckless rhetoric that led to what took place here yesterday."
Perkins called out the "recklessness" of groups such as the SPLC, located in Montgomery, Ala.
"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," said Perkins.
"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 SPLC could be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation and what the FBI here has categorized as an action of domestic terrorism. There is no room for that in a society such as ours that works through differences we have on public policy through a peaceful means."
So far, the 28-year-old Corkins has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and prosecutors say more charges could come in the next few days. When Perkins was asked if the suspect should be charged with a "hate" crime, he said no and that neither he nor the FRC have been supporters of such legislation.
Investigators have said they do not have enough information to determine if Corkins was acting on the behest of any other organization, was acting out of political motivations or what his mental status may have been at the time of the shooting.
"We don't know enough yet about him or his circumstances to be able to determine his connection to this group or to the business or to what, you know, mentally what he's doing or thinking. So we're going to try to sort it all out, and pull the evidence together, do as many interviews as we can, and get it all together," said FBI Assistant Director James McJunkin.
Perkins, meanwhile, explained that Johnson was a full-time employee of FRC and that he was not a "security guard" but the organization's building operations manager. Johnson was not armed when Corkins entered the building.
FRC is a conservative nonprofit that advocates religious freedom issues and policy issues that impact the family.