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Context of 'September 23, 2002: Al Gore Speaks Out against War in Iraq and Preemptive War in General'

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Part of the Westboro Baptist Church as it appears in recent years. The URL “godhatesamerica.com” is written on a banner hanging in front of the church.Part of the Westboro Baptist Church as it appears in recent years. The URL “godhatesamerica.com” is written on a banner hanging in front of the church. [Source: Ask (.com)]The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas, holds its first services under the auspices of Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps. Phelps, his wife, nine of his 13 children, and their spouses and children make up the core of the WBC’s small congregation. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will describe the church as a virtual cult led by Phelps. Phelps and his extended family members live in houses on the WBC compound in Topeka, with the houses arranged in a box formation and sharing a central backyard. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] The congregation will quickly begin shedding members because of Phelps’s vitriolic preaching, and for a time Phelps will attempt to support the church by selling vacuum cleaners and baby carriages door-to-door. For years, much of the church’s income comes from Phelps’s children, who regularly sell candy door-to-door. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]
Atmosphere of Fear, Abuse Alleged - According to one of Phelps’s estranged children, Nathan Phelps, Phelps uses violence and abuse to keep the members in line; in the SPLC’s words, “cultivating an atmosphere of fear to maintain his authority.” Nathan and his two siblings, Mark Phelps, and Dortha Bird, will later leave the church and family, and all three will allege physical and psychological abuse in multiple newspaper and television interviews. Fred Phelps will dismiss all the allegations as “a sea of fag lies.” Nathan will allege that his father beat him with a leather strap and a mattock handle until he “couldn’t lie down or sit down for a week.” They will also allege that Phelps beat his wife, forced his children to fast, and other charges. No child abuse charges brought against Phelps will ever result in convictions, usually because the children will refuse to testify out of what Nathan Phelps will call fear of reprisal. Children in the Phelps family are kept close to the church, and, the SPLC will write, “their upbringing offers them few opportunities to integrate into mainstream society. It is common to see young children from the Phelps family at WBC pickets, often holding the group’s hateful signs. These children casually use the words ‘fag’ and ‘dyke’ in interviews, and the older children report having no close friends at school. The Phelps family raises its children to hold hateful and upsetting views, and to believe that all people not in WBC will go to hell.… The children quickly grow alienated in school and in society, leading them to build relationships almost exclusively within the family. This helps to explain why nine of Fred Phelps’ 13 children have remained members of the church.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Phelps, who dropped out of the fundamentalist religious Bob Jones University, was ordained as a Baptist minister at the age of 17. He met his future wife Marge Phelps after his California street ministry against dirty jokes and sexual petting was the subject of a Time magazine profile. Between 1952 and 1968 the couple will have 13 children. Phelps will go on to earn a law degree from Washburn University in 1962, though he has some difficulty being admitted to the Kansas bar because no judge will be willing to vouch for his good character. Between 1951 and 2010, Phelps will be arrested multiple times for assault, battery, threats, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and contempt of court. He will be convicted four times, but will successfully avoid prison. He will decorate his WBC compound with an enormous upside-down American flag. He will go on to vilify both liberal and conservative lawmakers, including future President Ronald Reagan, and will praise enemies of the nation such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Mark Phelps will later call his father “a small, pathetic old man” who “behaves with a viciousness the likes of which I have never seen.” All three estranged children say that Phelps routinely refers to African-Americans as “dumb n_ggers.” Bird later says, “He only started picketing in 1991, but I want people to understand that nothing’s changed, he’s been like this all along.” She will change her last name to Bird to celebrate her new-found freedom away from the family, though she will continue to live in the Topeka area. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]
Fundamentalist Doctrine - Phelps teaches a fundamentalist version of Calvinist doctrine called “Primitive Baptist,” in which members believe that God only chooses a select few to be saved, and everyone else is doomed to burn in hell. The WBC Web site will later explain: “Your best hope is that you are among those he has chosen. Your prayer every day should be that you might be. And if you are not, nothing you say or do will serve as a substitute.”
Successful Lawsuits Help Fund Church - In 1964, Phelps will found a law firm specifically for defending the church against civil suits; the firm employs five attorneys, all children of Phelps. Phelps himself is a lawyer, but he will be disbarred in 1979 by the Kansas Supreme Court, which will find that he shows “little regard for the ethics of his profession.” The church does not solicit or accept outside donations; much of its funding comes from successful lawsuits against the Topeka city government and other organizations and individuals. The SPLC will explain, “Because the Phelps family represents WBC in court, they can put the fees they win towards supporting the church.” As of 2007, many Phelps family members will work for the state government, bringing additional revenue to the church. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Nathan Phelps will later say that his father routinely files frivolous lawsuits in the hope that his targets will settle out of court rather than face the expenditures of a bench trial. (One extreme example is a 1974 class action suit demanding $50 million from Sears over the alleged delay in delivering a television set. In 1980, Sears will settle the suit by paying Phelps $126. Another, more lucrative example is a 1978 civil rights case that earns Phelps almost $10,000 in legal fees as part of the settlement of a discrimination case.) [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]
Reviling Homosexuality - One of the central tenets of the church’s practices is the vilification of homosexuality, which the church will use to propel itself into the public eye (see June 1991 and After, 1996, June 2005 and After, September 8, 2006, October 2-3, 2006, and April 2009). The church’s official slogan is “God Hates Fags.” The church will begin its anti-gay crusade in the late 1980s with the picketing of a Topeka park allegedly frequented by homosexuals. In the early 1990s, WBC will launch its nationwide anti-gay picketing crusade. The church will win international notoriety with its picketing of the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay student brutally murdered in Wyoming (see October 14, 1998 and October 3, 2003). After the 9/11 attacks, the church will begin claiming that God brought about the attacks to punish America for its tolerance of homosexuality (see September 8, 2006). The church will also begin picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005, claiming that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality and persecuting the WBC (see June 2005 and After). The church will win notable victories in court regarding its right to protest at funerals (see March 10, 2006 and After and June 5, 2007 and After). Nations such as Canada and the United Kingdom will ban WBC members from entering their borders to engage in protest and picketing activities (see August 2008 and February 2009). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Phelps will write in an undated pamphlet detailing the “message” of the WBC: “America is doomed for its acceptance of homosexuality. If God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for going after fornication and homosexuality then why wouldn’t God destroy America for the same thing?” In 2001, a Topeka resident will tell an SPLC researcher: “I’m so tired of people calling him an ‘anti-gay activist.’ He’s not an anti-gay activist. He’s a human abuse machine.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): “Though the group’s specific focus may shift over time, they believe that nearly all Americans and American institutions are ‘sinful,’ so nearly any individual or organization can be targeted. In fact, WBC members say that ‘God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes’ and that their picketing is a form of preaching to a ‘doomed’ country unable to hear their message in any other way.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2012]

Entity Tags: Fred Waldron Phelps, Matthew Shepard, Kansas Supreme Court, Mark Phelps, Dortha Bird, Marge Phelps, Anti-Defamation League, Nathan Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, Southern Poverty Law Center

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Nine federal judges in Kansas sign a disciplinary complaint against Reverend Fred Phelps, the head of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After). Phelps, as are many of his children and in-laws, is a lawyer. The judges add five of his children and a daughter-in-law to the complaint. The complaint alleges that the seven Phelps family members made false accusations against the judges. In 1987, Phelps’s position is weakened when he is censured for writing abusive letters to potential defendants threatening lawsuits if his demands are not met. In 1989, Phelps agrees to stop practicing law entirely in federal court, in return for his family members’ continuing privilege to practice law in those courts. His daughter Margie Phelps is suspended for practicing law in federal and state courts for one year, and his son Fred Phelps Jr. is suspended from those courts for six months. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]

Entity Tags: Fred Phelps, Jr, Westboro Baptist Church, Margie Phelps, Fred Waldron Phelps

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An unusual relationship forms between the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After), and the political organization of Senator Al Gore (D-TN). In 1988, WBC head Fred Phelps provides rooms in his compound for Gore’s presidential campaign workers. In 1993, Phelps’s oldest son Fred Phelps Jr. is invited to the first Clinton-Gore inauguration. But by 1998, Gore is seen as such an enemy by the WBC that its members picket the funeral of his father. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001] In 2000, Phelps Senior will say that the relationship between himself and Gore is “not what it used to be,” but he will say that he still receives Christmas cards from Gore. Phelps will attempt to explain the relationship between Gore and the WBC, saying: “He was strong pro-life, and he said he wasn’t going to accept any money from homosexual groups, and things of that nature. But there’s no question in my mind that approximately in the late 1980s or the early 1990s he made a conscious decision that he wanted to be a successful national candidate, and he sold out on some of those critical social issues, because that’s what he had to do to succeed nationally in the Democratic Party.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/4/2000]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Fred Phelps, Jr, Fred Waldron Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: Elections Before 2000

Lawyer and ordained minister Fred Phelps, the leader of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After), runs for governor of Kansas as a Democrat. He disseminates flyers attacking other gubernatorial candidates, as well as other state politicians, in what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will call “unusually personal terms.” He loses in the primary, winning 6.7 percent of the votes cast. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]

Entity Tags: Southern Poverty Law Center, Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Waldron Phelps

Timeline Tags: Elections Before 2000

Signs held by a WBC picketer at the funeral of a fallen soldier.Signs held by a WBC picketer at the funeral of a fallen soldier. [Source: Eagle I Online (.com)]The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After) begins what it calls its “picketing ministry,” holding controversial protests to raise awareness of the church and gain media attention. The first protest is held at Gage Park, a Topeka park that the WBC claims is a “meeting place” for homosexuals. The protests continue well into 2001. In 2012, the church will claim to have held over 40,000 protests. WBC members attend these protests bearing signs with such slogans as “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates Jews,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Thank God for IEDs” [improvised explosive devices], and “Thank God for AIDS.” Protesters often shout vulgar and obscene epithets at mourners. The church protests many local businesses and individuals in Topeka, including picketing one restaurant every day for three years because the owner knowingly hired a lesbian employee. Jerry Berger, the owner of the restaurant, will later say that church leader Fred Phelps promises to “put you out of business” if he does not fire the employee. When Berger refuses, Phelps and the WBC hound him and the restaurant for three years until he sells the restaurant and the employee quits. Phelps and the WBC find the woman in her new job and protest her there, also. The WBC also continues to protest at the restaurant. At least one member, Shirley Phelps-Roper, often brings American flags to protests and allows her children to trample the flags during those protests, engendering even more media attention. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012; Anti-Defamation League, 2012] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will later write that it believes the group’s overriding purpose is to garner publicity for itself. “Every mention of WBC in the media is considered a victory by the group,” it will observe. [Anti-Defamation League, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Anti-Defamation League, Fred Waldron Phelps, Jerry Berger, Shirley Phelps-Roper

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Lawyer and ordained minister Fred Phelps, the leader of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After), runs for the US Senate. Though he calls his opponent a “bull dike” (a missppelled accusation that his opponent is a lesbian), Phelps wins almost 31 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001] Phelps ran for governor of Kansas in 1990, and won less than seven percent of the Democratic primary vote (see 1990).

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Waldron Phelps

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism, Elections Before 2000

Members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) of Topeka, Kansas, are charged with eight counts of criminal defamation and other charges by Shawnee County District Attorney Joan Hamilton, charges stemming from a number of what Hamilton says are abuses and crimes committed during protests held by WBC members (see June 1991 and After). WBC leader Fred Phelps, himself a lawyer (see 1985-1989), responds by filing three lawsuits against Hamilton alleging wrongful prosecution. A court invalidates the state defamation statute, blocks further prosecution of the WBC members in the cases, and awards the church $43,000 in legal fees. Years later, an appeals court will reinstate the defamation statute, but the statute of limitations will preclude most of the charges from being refiled. All of Phelps’s lawsuits against Hamilton will eventually be thrown out of court. A second set of defamation charges filed by Hamilton in 1996 will be dropped for technical reasons. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001] The church takes revenge against Hamilton in a more personal way, somehow securing a copy of a private email from her to her husband discussing both of their extramarital affairs and making the email public. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]

Entity Tags: Fred Waldron Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, Joan Hamilton

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Protesters from the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) in Tokepa, Kansas, become part of a riot when angry passersby take umbrage at the extreme rhetoric of the protesters. Eight WBC members are hospitalized with a variety of minor injuries. The riot takes place outside the Vintage Restaurant. The WBC dubs the event “The Vintage Massacre” and begins picketing the restaurant every day, as well as places of business where Vintage employees go after leaving the restaurant in an attempt to escape the picketing. The WBC will hold a “memorial service” every March 26 hereafter in honor of the “massacre.” [Global Oneness, 2011]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Vintage Restaurant

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Benjamin Phelps, the grandson of Fred Phelps, the leader of the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), spits on a passerby during a protest by the church (see June 1991 and After). Benjamin Phelps is convicted of a charge of misdemeanor battery. Other WBC members found innocent in two similar cases file lawsuits against the original complainants. Another Phelps family member, Jonathan Phelps, is convicted of disorderly conduct after verbally assaulting passersby at another protest; he stood outside a theater waving a sign proclaiming “Fags: The pr_ck goes up the _ss” and screaming at passing children, “Did your daddy stick his pr_ck up your _ss last night?” His original conviction is overturned due to a legal technicality, but he is convicted in a second trial. Fred Phelps is also convicted of disorderly conduct in related incidents, when he spoke in an abusive manner to members of a birthday party hosted by local attorney John Hamilton. All of the incidents occurred outside a local restaurant in Topeka, Kansas (see March 26, 1993). Benjamin Phelps is given 12 months of probation and is required to write an essay about legally acceptable language. Fred Phelps is fined $1,000 and sentenced to 60 days in jail, but the sentences are suspended. All of the Phelpses unsuccessfully claim that they were victimized by selective prosecution and by judicial bias. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 5/24/1997; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Global Oneness, 2011]

Entity Tags: John Hamilton, Benjamin Phelps, Fred Waldron Phelps, Jonathan Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After), which conducts what it calls its “picketing ministry” against churches, businesses, organizations, and individuals it does not like (see June 1991 and After), defames the rabbi of a Topeka synagogue at which it is protesting. In a press release, the WBC’s Fred Phelps says: “Rabbi Lawrence Karol is an apostate Jew who denies the faith of his fathers, militantly promotes the anal-copulating agenda of Topeka’s filthy fag community, and persecutes the Lord’s people just as his vermin ancestors did in killing the Lord Jesus Christ and their own prophets and persecuting the apo[s]tles of Christ. Hence they live filthy lives of sexual perversion, greed, violence, and oppression of the Lord’s people. This is why the vile Jews of Temple Beth Sholom promote sodomy and persecute Baptists.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Temple Beth Sholom (Topeka), Fred Waldron Phelps, Lawrence Karol

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

1997: Anti-Gay Church Launches Hate Web Site

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) puts up its first Web site. It is mostly devoted to defaming and besmirching homosexuals. The site will become the well-known “God Hates Fags” site. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Darrell Lewis, the head of the planning department for Duluth, Minnesota, turns down an offer to serve as the director of the Topeka-Shawnee County Metropolitan Planning Agency because of what he calls the “atmosphere of oppression” in Topeka, Kansas. Lewis specifically cites the efforts of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), which loudly condemns homosexuality and other practices with which it disagrees. “Because of the public nature of the job, I think I would become a target of Fred Phelps,” he says, referring to the pastor of the WBC. “I can’t subject my children to that.” Lewis is openly gay, though he says he is quiet about his sexual orientation and denies being a “gay activist.” Lewis says he was ready to take the job until December 8, 1997, when he saw a Phelps protest during a visit to Topeka. He is also concerned with the city’s failure to pass an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation. “Frankly, in Minnesota it [homosexuality] is not much of an issue,” Lewis says. Phelps says if his church helped persuade Lewis not to come to Topeka, then he and his church have done the city a public service. The church is serving a larger purpose, he says, by helping persuade homosexuals not to come to Topeka. Gays “can’t think straight about anything,” Phelps says, and should not be allowed in important positions. Shawnee County Commission chairman Ted Ensley says he is stunned by Lewis’s decision. He did not know about Lewis’s sexual orientation and says it would not have been an issue in deciding whether to offer Lewis the position. Topeka Mayor Joan Wagnon agrees with Ensley, saying: “It just doesn’t make any difference to me. His ideas and his credentials were wonderful. I don’t think his sexual orientation is anybody’s business but his own.” However, Commissioner Mike Meier says he is glad Lewis has decided not to take the position. Meier says he is opposed to homosexuality, and notes, “I’m not Fred Phelps, but I’m pretty damn straight.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 12/14/1997; Topeka Capital-Journal, 12/14/1997] The WBC will stage protests in Duluth in response to Lewis’s decision. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 3/23/1998]

Entity Tags: Ted Ensley, Darrell Lewis, Fred Waldron Phelps, Mike Meier, Topeka-Shawnee County Metropolitan Planning Agency, Westboro Baptist Church, Joan Wagnon

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Anti-gay activist Fred Phelps, pastor of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas (see November 27, 1955 and After), announces his candidacy for governor. Phelps intends to run as a Democrat. Phelps ran for governor of Kansas in 1990 and won less than seven percent of the Democratic primary vote (see 1990). In 1992, he ran for Senate, again unsuccessfully, and used anti-gay slurs against his opponent (see 1992). He has also run unsuccessfully for mayor of Topeka. Phelps says Governor Bill Graves (R-KS) is wrong for allowing thousands of tax dollars to be wasted at state universities on “seminars taught by militant homosexual activists spreading gay propaganda.” Phelps says, “As governor, I would promptly close down all illegal gay and lesbian activity in Kansas, beginning with the regents schools.” He says he would eliminate all property taxes and close Washburn University’s School of Law. Aside from being a minister, Phelps is a disbarred lawyer. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 3/26/1998] Phelps is given little chance of winning the Democratic primary against challenger Tom Sawyer, a longtime member of the Kansas House of Representatives. [Associated Press, 7/20/1998] Sawyer will indeed defeat Phelps in the Democratic primary, and lose to Graves in the general election. [Kansas Secretary of State, 12/1/1998]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Bill Graves, Fred Waldron Phelps, Tom Sawyer

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Matthew Shepard.Matthew Shepard. [Source: BilEric Project]Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, is murdered on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. Shepard, who is openly gay, is found brutally beaten, burned, and tied to a fence, where he hung, comatose, for some 18 hours before being found. He is rushed to a local hospital, but dies five days later. Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson are quickly charged with Shepard’s death. Because of the extreme brutalization they inflicted on Shepard, prosecutors chararcterize the murder as a hate crime: according to the charges, the two killed Shepard because of their hatred of homosexuals. [New York Times, 10/10/1998; ABC News, 11/26/2004] The girlfriends of the two accused murderers are also arrested and charged as accomplices after the fact, but the charges are mitigated after they cooperate with the investigation. [New York Times, 10/10/1998] Investigators quickly learn that Shepard had been beaten twice in recent months by other Laramie residents who, he said, attacked him because of his homosexuality. [CNN, 10/12/1998] “He was very open about his sexuality,” says a friend, anthropology student Tina LaBrie. “I admired him for that because it is very courageous to be yourself even when others disagree.” [New York Times, 10/10/1998]
Fatal Truck Ride - Henderson and McKinney approach Shepard at a bar with the intention of robbing him. According to the two, Shepard, unaware of their plans, tells them he is too drunk to drive and asks for a ride. In some versions of the events, McKinney and Henderson represent themselves as gay in order to entice Shepard into the truck. The three climb into McKinney’s pickup; Henderson drives. McKinney will claim that at some point during the ride Shepard places his hand on McKinney’s leg. It is then that McKinney strikes Shepard with a .357 Magnum pistol. However, McKinney later says, “I was getting ready to pull it on him anyway.” (In 1999, Henderson will admit that McKinney lied about the sexual advance from Shepard, and say that Shepard never touched either man. And tapes of McKinney’s post-arrest confession bear out Henderson’s denial.) McKinney tells Shepard: “Guess what? I’m not gay—and you just got jacked.” McKinney forces Shepard to give him his wallet, which only has $30 in it. McKinney continues pistol-whipping Shepard; prosecutors will say that McKinney continues beating Shepard because of his hatred for gays, but McKinney will later claim he loses control of himself because he is high on methamphetamine, saying: “Sometimes when you have that kind of rage going through you, there’s no stopping it. I’ve attacked my best friends coming off of meth binges.” McKinney and Henderson drive to a secluded spot outside Laramie where they can dump Shepard and flee. They stop at a wooden fence, where Henderson ties Shepard to the fence with a length of rope while McKinney continues to beat Shepard. Henderson later claims McKinney strikes him in the face when he tries to stop McKinney from continuing to assault Shepard. After tying Shepard to the fence, Henderson returns to the truck, leaving McKinney alone with Shepard. McKinney later says he believes it is his final blows to Shepard that ultimately kill him. [New York Times, 10/18/1998; Salon, 11/6/1999; ABC News, 11/26/2004] Sergeant Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case, will later say, “That is one thousand percent torture, what occurred to that boy.” [Salon, 11/6/1999]
Altercation in Parking Lot Alerts Police to Murder - McKinney takes Shepard’s wallet and shoes, gets back in the truck, and tells Henderson to return to Laramie. McKinney later says his intention was to burglarize Shepard’s apartment. However, McKinney and Henderson meet up with two other young men whom police say are vandalizing cars; McKinney attacks the two men, attracting police attention. Police Sergeant Flint Waters runs down Henderson; after apprehending him, he sees several incriminating items in the bed of Henderson’s truck, including a bloodied large-frame revolver, a coat, a shoe, and a length of rope. Waters later says, “Seeing that the gun covered in blood, I assumed that there was a lot more going on than what we’d stumbled onto so far.” [ABC News, 11/26/2004] The two assailants’ girlfriends attempt to cover for them, inventing an alibi for them and throwing Henderson’s bloodied clothing into a trash bin. McKinney’s girlfriend, Kristen Price, says of Henderson after the murder: “He was crying, and he kept throwing up. He just came in and hugged me, and said, ‘I’ve done something horrible. I deserve to die.’” [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Discovery - Aaron Kreifels, a fellow University of Wyoming student, finds Shepard by chance after struggling to get his mountain bike through the sandy, rugged terrain. He later tells a Denver Post reporter: “I got up and noticed something out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a scarecrow, so I didn’t think much of it. Then I went around and noticed it was a real person. I checked to see if he was conscious or not, and when I found out he wasn’t, I ran and got help as fast as I could.” Kreifels reaches a house in the nearby Sherman Hills subdivision and calls police. As to Shepard’s condition, he will say, “I don’t really want to go into details about that.” Of the two assailants, Kreifels will say: “I can’t even grasp what these people were thinking, how they could do such a thing. There’s no excuse for it. Whatever their excuse is, it’s meaningless, because there’s just no excuse for taking another’s life.” [Denver Post, 10/15/1988] McKinney’s girlfriend briefly attempts to blame Shepard for the attack, claiming Shepard had made a pass at her boyfriend in recent days, and embarrassed him in front of his friends. [New York Times, 10/12/1998]
Father of Assailant: Gay Victim Caused Increased Media Coverage - The father of one of the assailants, Bill McKinney, condemns the attack, but also complains about the attention Shepard’s murder receives in the media. The national press “blew it totally out of proportion because it involved a homosexual,” McKinney tells a Denver reporter. “Had this been a heterosexual these two boys decided to take out and rob, this never would have made the national news.” [New York Times, 10/12/1998]
Funeral - Anti-gay protesters will picket Shepard’s funeral, displaying signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell” (see October 14, 1998).
Hate Crime - The question of whether Shepard’s murder qualifies as a “hate crime” is hotly debated in the weeks following the murder (see October 9, 1998 and After).
Multiple Life Sentences - McKinney and Henderson are found guilty of murder, kidnapping, and, in McKinney’s case, aggravated robbery. They accept double life sentences, in a plea deal agreed to by Shepard’s family, in order to escape the possibility of a death sentence. They waive their right to appeal as part of their plea deal. “Bottom line, Aaron was afraid he was going to die,” DeBree later says. [Salon, 11/5/1999; Salon, 11/6/1999; ABC News, 11/26/2004] Dennis Shepard, the father of the victim, speaks for the family in court. “I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney,” he says. “However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt.… Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life and may you thank Matthew every day for it.” [Salon, 11/5/1999]
Triggers Legislation - Shepard’s death will be a catalyst for the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see October 28, 2009). Shepard’s mother will create a foundation in her son’s name dedicated to promoting tolerance and diversity. And Shepard’s story will be retold in documentaries, television movies, and a play called “The Laramie Project,” which will often be performed in schools to address the issues of hate and prejudice. [ABC News, 11/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Matthew Shepard, Flint Waters, Bill McKinney, Aaron McKinney, Aaron Kreifels, Tina LaBrie, Russell Henderson, Rob DeBree

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Reverend Fred Phelps, holding a sign outside Matthew Shepard’s funeral service.The Reverend Fred Phelps, holding a sign outside Matthew Shepard’s funeral service. [Source: Slate]The funeral for Matthew Shepard, a gay college student brutally murdered by three white supremacists (see October 9, 1998 and After), is held in St. Mark’s Church in Casper, Wyoming. The service is led by the Reverend Anne Kitch. [CNN, 10/13/1998; Louie Crew, 10/14/1998] The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, leads a small delegation of church members in a raucous denunciation of homosexuality at Shepard’s funeral. Phelps and his congregation members have picketed the funerals of gay men for years across the country, holding “God Hates Fags” signs and harassing family members. Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) says he cannot prevent Phelps from attending the funeral, but vows that the protesters will not be allowed to disrupt it. Phelps’s group, Geringer says, is “just flat not welcome. What we don’t need is a bunch of wing nuts coming in.” For his part, Phelps, who claims he has received multiple death threats after announcing his journey to Laramie, says: “We’re not going to tolerate any violence from these homosexuals. They are the most violent people in the world. Here they are talking about what happened to this poor boy, and they turn around and make death threats against us.” Geringer, the Casper City Council, and several groups of gay activists succeeded in passing a regulation that keeps Phelps and his protesters 50 feet away from church property during the funeral. “[I]t was the best we could accomplish without risking an immediate court injunction for violating constitutional free speech,” reads a statement by the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans. “Such an injunction might have allowed Phelps to walk right up to the church property line.” [CNN, 10/13/1998; Log Cabin Republicans, 10/16/1998] Phelps and his fellow church members picket the funeral with signs reading, “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell,” “AIDS Kills Fags Dead,” and “God Hates Fags.” [Fact-Index, 2004] Five years later, Phelps will attempt to erect a marker emblazoned with inflammatory statements about Shepard in a local park, to “commemorate” his death (see October 3, 2003).

Entity Tags: St. Mark’s Church (Casper, Wyoming), Log Cabin Republicans, Jim Geringer, Fred Waldron Phelps, Anne Kitch, Matthew Shepard, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Roy W. Menninger, the chairman of a citizens’ rights group in Topeka, Kansas, writes a column for the local press condemning the anti-gay protests held by Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) at the funeral of a murdered gay man (see October 14, 1998). Menninger calls Matthew Shepard’s murder (see October 9, 1998 and After) a “shocking” example of “unspeakable brutality… intentionally and… blatantly aimed at a member of a minority.” The WBC’s derogatory protest at Shepard’s funeral (see October 14, 1998) “surely express[ed] the same fear and the same bitter hatred right here that motivated the killers of the Wyoming youth: These very attitudes are the substructure of such acts of violence.” Menninger writes that almost everyone harbors some capacity for hatred, fear, and brutality just as Shepard’s killers and the WBC protesters do, but they generally do not act on that capacity. Too often, he continues, those feelings cause people to “look away from the unbelievably obscene signs carried by local picketers pillorying homosexuals in the name of Christianity. We cluck our dismay, we are distressed by their behavior, and we regret the sad image of Topeka that these picketers project—but we do not protest; we do not object. Where is our outrage? Why do we not mobilize the healthy sentiment in this community that would force these behaviors to stop?… The plain fact of the matter is that our silence conveys tacit approval of the mean and ugly things that are done by others in the name of righteousness. Our silence encourages the shameful unChristian behavior that this picketing really is. Our failure to speak out against those who commit hateful acts of prejudice and injustice makes us silent accomplices and secret supporters. In fact, our silence gives permission to the openly hateful few to act out their fear and anger against others; our silent acquiescence encourages their violence, which then becomes our violence and our hate crime. We cannot escape the guilt that this kind of collusion brings: When we are silent, we are as guilty as the perpetrators.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/18/1998]

Entity Tags: Matthew Shepard, Westboro Baptist Church, Roy W. Menninger

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Conservative Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, who speaks out against the anti-gay rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church.Conservative Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, who speaks out against the anti-gay rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church. [Source: New York Times]People from the left and right of the social and political spectrum join in condemning the actions of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) during its protest at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death a month earlier (see October 9, 1998 and After and October 14, 1998). The Reverend Jerry Falwell, a far-right Christian evangelist, says of the WBC’s protest, “I found it almost impossible to believe that human beings could be so brutal and vicious to a hurting family.” Of the WBC’s leader, Fred Phelps, he says, “He’s a first-class nut.” Phelps says he is proud to be labeled as such by Falwell because “[i]t means I’m preaching the truth.” Phelps then labels Falwell a “Judas” and says WBC members will picket Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Robert H. Knight of the conservative Family Research Council says he asked Phelps to call off the church’s protests against gays (see June 1991 and After) a year ago, and says he told Phelps that his actions “misconstrue… the message of Christ, which was one of love.” Arne Owens of the Christian Coalition says that anti-gay Christian organizations oppose the homosexual lifestyle while loving gays and lesbians: “You must be loving toward all human beings while recognizing the role of sin in the world.” But Cathy Renna of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) says that Phelps only expresses the hatred other anti-gay groups feel but do not so bluntly demonstrate. The Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative lobbying group, joins the Christian Coalition and other anti-gay organization in accusing GLAAD and other gay rights groups of capitalizing on Shepard’s murder for their own purposes, a charge Renna calls ludicrous. She says that Shepard’s friends “told me that Matthew would have wanted something good to come out of this. If [a murder] energizes and makes us fight to educate people about the kind of violence lesbians and gays face every day, that’s not using Matthew.” Instead, she says, groups like the Christian Coalition are using Phelps to promote their agenda: “They can point to him and say: ‘He’s a bad guy. We’re compassionate.’” For his part, Phelps says his organization brought “a little sanity” to Shepard’s funeral, and claims it was “the homosexuals” who “turned it into a Cecil B. DeMille propaganda mill.” [Associated Press, 11/24/1998]

Entity Tags: Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, Cathy Renna, Arne Owens, Christian Coalition, Fred Waldron Phelps, Jerry Falwell, Matthew Shepard, Westboro Baptist Church, Robert H. Knight, Traditional Values Coalition, Family Research Council

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Bush/Cheney campaign logo.The Bush/Cheney campaign logo. [Source: P. Freah]The presidential campaign of George W. Bush (R-TX), fearing that Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) might win the election in the US Electoral College while Bush ekes out a lead in the collective popular vote, devises a strategy to challenge Gore’s legitimacy as the elected president. Bush campaign advisors believe that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader might take millions of votes from Gore nationwide, but not enough in key states to cost Gore a state’s electoral votes. Gore could, theoretically, win 270 or more electoral votes without amassing a majority in the popular vote. In such a case, both the Constitution and historical precedent is clear: Gore wins without argument. “You play by the rules in force at the time,” a Gore aide tells a reporter. “If the nation were really outraged by the possibility, then the system would have been changed long ago. The history is clear.” In 1876, New York Governor Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but lost the presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes, who won a majority of Electoral College votes. In 1888, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote, but lost the presidency to Benjamin Harrison in the Electoral College tally. In 1976, slight differences in the vote tallies in Ohio and Mississippi would have given President Gerald Ford enough electoral votes to beat challenger Jimmy Carter. A Bush aide tells his fellows, “The one thing we don’t do is roll over—we fight.” The New York Daily News will later report: “[T]the core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. In league with the campaign—which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College’s essential unfairness—a massive talk radio operation would be encouraged.” The Bush strategy is to launch a massive, orchestrated assault via conservative talk radio, Fox News, and other conservative media outlets to portray the Electoral College as unfair and non-binding. A Bush aide tells a reporter: “We’d have ads, too, and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted.” The Daily News writes that the strategy goes further than a media blitz: “Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will, and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can.” A Bush advisor speculates on the creation of a “grassroots” organization, perhaps to be called “Democrats for Democracy,” that would advocate for the ignoring of the Electoral College in favor of calling for installation of Bush via the popular vote—a process that is entirely outside the Constitution. The Bush strategy would also pressure some of the 538 individual electors. Although it is customary for each elector to vote for the candidate that his or her state selected, legally they are not bound to do so, and can change their votes, although this has happened only rarely in US history and never impacted an election. According to a Boston Globe report, the Bush strategy would “challenge the legitimacy of a Gore win, casting it as an affront to the people’s will and branding the Electoral College as an antiquated relic.… One informal Bush advisor, who declined to be named, predicted Republicans would likely benefit from a storm of public outrage if Bush won the popular vote but was denied the presidency.” The advisor tells the Globe reporter: “That’s what America is all about, isn’t it. I’m sure we would make a strong case.” The Daily News calls the Bush strategy a preparation for electoral “insurrection.” [New York Daily News, 11/1/2000; Consortium News, 11/10/2000]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Civil Liberties

Thousands of African-American voters in Florida are illegally denied their right to vote, as is proven in many instances by subsequent investigations. Adora Obi Nweze, the president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, is told by election officials she cannot vote because she has already cast an absentee ballot, even though she has cast no such ballot. Cathy Jackson, a Broward County voter since 1996, was told falsely that she was not on the rolls and could not vote; she sees a white woman cast an “affidavit ballot” and asks if she can do the same, but is denied. Donnise DeSouza of Miami is told, falsely, that she is not on the voting rolls and is moved to the “problem line”; when the polls close, she is sent home without voting. Another voter, Lavonna Lewis, is in line to vote when the polls close. Though the law says that voters already in line can vote even after the polls close, she is sent home. She will later say she saw election officials allow a white male voter to get in line after the polls had closed.
US Representative Fights to Cast Vote - US Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL) is followed into her poll by a television crew. Officials there tell her that her ballot has been sent to Washington and therefore she cannot vote in Florida. Brown spends two and a half hours in the polling place before finally being allowed to vote. Brown later notes that she helped register thousands of African-American college students in the months prior to the election. “We put them on buses,” she will recall, “took them down to the supervisor’s office. Had them register. When it came time to vote, they were not on the rolls!” Many African-American voters like Wallace McDonald of Hillsborough County are denied their vote because they are told, falsely, that they are convicted felons whose right to vote has been stripped. The NAACP offices are inundated with telephone calls all day from voters complaining that their right to vote is being denied.
'Painful, Dehumanizing, Demoralizing' - Donna Brazile, campaign manager for the Gore campaign whose sister was illegally asked for three forms of identification in Seminole County before being allowed to vote, later says: “What happened that day—I can’t even put it in words anymore. It was the most painful, dehumanizing, demoralizing thing I’ve ever experienced in my years of organizing.” Hearings in early 2001 held by the US Commission on Civil Rights will record more than 30 hours of testimony from over 100 witnesses as to a wide array of racially based disenfranchisement. The commission will find that the election probably violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but Attorney General John Ashcroft will ignore the report.
Gadsden County - One exemplar of systematic disenfranchisement is seen in Gadsden County, one of Florida’s poorest counties, with 57 percent of its voters African-American. Its elections are supervised by white conservative Denny Hutchinson. Hutchinson refuses to take action to increase registration, put in more polling places, and other actions designed to increase voter turnout. Gadsden County Commissioner Ed Dixon later recalls: “He never advocated for any increased precincts, even though some of our people had to drive 30 miles to get to a poll. In the only county that’s a majority African-American, you want a decreased turnout.” After the votes have been tallied, Hutchinson’s deputy, African-American Shirley Green Knight, notices that over 2,000 ballots (out of 14,727 cast) are not included in the registered count. The reason? Gadsden uses a so-called “optiscan” balloting device, which allows voters to “bubble in” ovals with a pencil; these “bubbles” are scanned and the votes they indicate are tallied. Optiscan ballots are prone to register “overvotes,” essentially when the ballot indicates votes for two separate candidates in the same race. Overvotes are not machine-tallied. The machines have a sorting switch that when set to “on” causes the machine to record overvotes or “undervotes” (no vote recorded) in a separate category for later review and possible inclusion. Knight will learn that Hutchinson had insisted the machines’ switches be set to “off,” which rejects the overvotes without counting them at all. “I have no idea why he would do that,” Knight later says. When she learns of the problem, she asks Hutchinson to run the ballots through again with the sorting switch on, but he refuses. He is later overruled by the Gadsden canvassing board. When the ballots are run through a second time, the results are startlingly different. Gadsden uses a variant of the so-called “caterpillar ballot,” which lists candidates’ names in two columns. George W. Bush, Al Gore, and six other presidential candidates are listed in one column. The second column lists two more candidates, Monica Moorehead and Howard Phillips, and a blank for a “Write-In Candidate.” Hundreds of voters apparently believe that the second column is for an entirely different race, and vote not only for Bush or Gore, but for Moorehead or Phillips. And some voters vote for Gore and, to ensure clarity, write “Gore” in the write-in box. (Some, thoroughly confused by directions telling them to “Vote for ONE” and “Vote for Group,” bubble in all 10 presidential candidates and write “Gore” in the box.) None of these votes are originally counted. More sophisticated optiscan machines would refuse to accept the ballot, prompting the voter to correct the error. But Gadsden uses a cheaper machine that allows the error to go through unbeknownst to the voter. When Gadsden performs its machine recount, Gore will receive 153 additional votes from the erroneous optiscan. These will be included in the state’s final tally. However, over 2,000 of the “overvote” ballots will not be counted. Two-thirds of those ballots have Gore as their selection.
Duval County - Similar problems plague voters in Duval County. Duval, a large Democratic stronghold because of its inclusion of Jacksonville, is 29 percent African-American. Twenty-one thousand votes are thrown out as “overvotes.” Part of the problem is a sample-ballot insert placed in the newspaper by elections supervisor John Stafford, giving erroneous instructions as to how to complete the Duval ballot; any voter who follows these instructions does not have their votes tallied, though corrected instructions are posted in some Duval precincts. In the critical 72-hour period after the votes are complete, Gore campaign staffer Mike Langton will spend hours with Stafford, a white Republican, attempting to address the situation. Stafford lies to Langton and tells him Duval has “only a few” overvotes. It is not until after the deadline to ask for a machine recount has passed that Langton learns of the 21,000 uncounted votes. Nearly half of these are from four heavily African-American precincts that usually vote 90 percent Democratic. In theory, nearly 10,000 votes for Gore from Duval County will go untallied.
'Felons' and 'Purge Lists' - Florida law disenfranchises citizens convicted of many felonies (see June 24, 1974). In this election, thousands of Florida voters, mostly African-American males, lose their vote when they appear at their precinct and are told they cannot vote because they are felons, even though they are not. One is Willie Steen, a military veteran who loses his vote in Hillsborough County. “The poll worker looked at the computer and said that there was something about me being a felon,” Steen later recalls. “I’ve never been arrested before in my life,” he recalls telling the poll worker. The worker refuses to listen, and orders Steen to leave the line. Steen later learns that the felony he supposedly committed was done between 1991 and 1993, when he was stationed in the Persian Gulf. Tampa youth leader Willie Dixon and Tallahasse pastor Willie Whiting are also denied their votes through improper classification as felons, as do thousands of other voters. Investigative journalist Greg Palast later learns that the felon-disenfranchisement is widespread and systematic. He will publish a story exposing the scheme during the Florida recounts—in a London newspaper. No US newspaper will consider it. Palast later says: “Stories of black people losing rights is passe, it’s not discussed, no one cares. A black person accused of being a felon is always guilty.” Palast and other investigators learn that Republican legislators have in recent years upgraded a number of selected crimes from misdemeanors to felonies, apparently in order to “purge” the voting rolls of African-Americans. State Senator Frederica Wilson is one of many who believe the new classifications are “aimed at African-American people.” Black lawmakers have been unsuccessful in attempting to repeal the felon-disenfranchisement laws. After a 1997 election, where some 105 felons were found to have voted and analysis showed that 71 percent of Florida felons were registered Democrats, the Florida state government allocated $4 million to “purge” felons off the voting rolls. The government turned the task over to a private firm, Database Technologies (DBT) of Boca Raton (which later merged with the firm ChoicePoint). When the first purge lists from DBT began appearing in 1998, county elections officials were worried. Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor for Leon County, will recall: “We were sent this purge list in August of 1998. We started sending letters and contacting voters, [saying] that we had evidence that they were potential felons and that they contact us or they were going to be removed from the rolls. Boy, did that cause a firestorm.” One of the “felons” was Sancho’s close friend Rick Johnson, a civil rights attorney. “Very few felons are members of the Florida bar,” Sancho will note. In early 2000, Sancho asked Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell, a lawyer for the Florida Division of Elections, why so many “false positives”—innocent people—were on DBT’s list. Mitchell told Sancho that the problem was DBT’s, not Florida’s, and the firm had been told to handle the problem. Instead, according to ChoicePoint marketing official James Lee, Florida relaxed the criteria for its purge list, and tens of thousands of voters who had names roughly similar to those of actual felons were added to the list. Why? Lee will say, “Because after the first year they weren’t getting enough names.” Willie D. Whiting, a law-abiding pastor, is denied the vote because Willie J. Whiting is a felon. Willie Steen is denied his vote because Willie O’Steen is a convicted felon. Mitchell told a DBT project manager that it was up to elections officials like Sancho to find and correct the misidentifications. The lists even include actual felons whose right to vote had been restored by previous Florida administrations during amnesty programs. The initial database for the purge lists is comprised of people arrested for felonies, not convicted—thusly many citizens never convicted of a crime are now on the purge list. Others are incorrectly listed as felons when they were convicted of misdemeanors. A May 2000 “corrected” list stunned county elections officials. Linda Howell, election supervisor of Madison County, found her own name on the list. Monroe County supervisor Harry Sawyer found his father on the list, along with one of his employees and the husband of another. None of those people were felons. Some counties, such as Broward, Duval, Madison, and Palm Beach chose not to use the lists at all; Sancho meticulously checked his list of 697 names and ended up retaining only 33. Most supervisors use the lists without question. A thousand Bay County voters are denied their vote; 7,000 Miami-Dade voters lose theirs. It is unknown how many of these are actual felons and how many are law-abiding, legitimate voters. A 2001 class-action lawsuit brought by the NAACP and African-American voters will charge DBT and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris with deliberately attempting to disenfranchise black voters. It will be settled out of court, with Florida agreeing to provisions that nominally settle the problem (see Late August 2002), but a 2004 article by Vanity Fair will note that by 2004, Florida’s government has implemented none of the corrective procedures mandated by the settlement. Subsequent investigations will show that the “felons” on the various purge lists are disproportionately Democratic voters and disproportionately African-American. [Tapper, 3/2001; Vanity Fair, 10/2004]
2001 Investigation Proves Widespread Disenfranchisement - A 2001 investigation by the progressive newsmagazine The Nation will show a widespread and systematic program of voter disenfranchisement in effect in Florida during the 2000 elections (see April 24, 2001).

A portion of the so-called ‘butterfly ballot’ used in the Palm Beach County elections.A portion of the so-called ‘butterfly ballot’ used in the Palm Beach County elections. [Source: L. David Roper]In Palm Beach County, Florida, voters begin complaining of problems with the “butterfly ballot” almost as soon as the polls open. Many believe that the ballot’s confusing design is redirecting voters who want to vote for Democrat Al Gore to vote instead for Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan (see September 2000).
Alerting the Gore Campaign of Problems - Lawyer Liz Hyman, volunteering to work the election in Palm Beach for the Gore campaign, later recalls that starting at 7:00 a.m., voters approach her complaining about the ballot, some theorizing that someone or some group of people conspired to redirect Gore’s votes to Buchanan. Around 8:00 a.m., Hyman calls her father, Washington, DC, attorney Lester Hyman. “You’re not going to believe what’s going on down here,” she tells him, and advises him to alert someone at the national Gore campaign headquarters. Soon, Joe Sandler, the general counsel of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), contacts Liz Hyman in Palm Beach. During the same time period, a number of elderly, angry voters drive to election supervisor Theresa LePore’s office and demand an explanation for the ballot confusion, but LePore refuses to take their complaints seriously.
Complaints, Attempts to Clarify Voting Procedures - Poll clerk Ethel Brownstein, after seeing voters having difficulty casting their votes for Gore, begins telling voters at her precinct: “Please be careful. The first hole is [Republican George W.] Bush, the second is Buchanan, and the third is Gore.” The complaints keep coming in, with many voters worried that they have voted for Buchanan instead of their intended vote for Gore. Many voters punch the second hole, then reconsidering, punch the third hole also, inadvertently causing an “overvote” that will be discarded. Some voters even write “Gore” or draw arrows to indicate their selection. By 11:24 a.m., LePore receives a faxed letter from Bobby Brochin, the DNC’s counsel in Florida. Brochin, who is still unsure of the exact nature of the problem with the ballots, writes: “Apparently certain presidential ballots being utilized in several precincts in Palm Beach County are quite confusing. They contain two pages listing all of the presidential candidates, which may cause electors to vote twice in the presidential race. You should immediately instruct all deputy supervisors and other officials at these precincts that they should advise all electors (and post a written advisory) that the ballot for the presidential race is two pages long, and that electors should vote for only one presidential candidate.” LePore does not respond to Brochin’s fax. By noon, WPEC-TV is reporting on the “butterfly ballot” confusion, and, in author Jake Tapper’s words, “doing a hell of a lot better than the Democrats are” in explaining the issue. Gore campaign workers begin visiting precincts to explain to Gore voters how to properly cast their votes on the ballot. By the afternoon, early results show some dismaying returns.
'I Think I Voted for a Nazi' - Precinct 162-G, almost entirely composed of the Jewish retirement community Lakes of Delray, is showing a surprisingly large number of votes for Buchanan, a Holocaust denier who is roundly despised among most Jewish voters. Brochin resends his fax to LePore at 2:57 p.m., noting that he failed to get a response the first time. Gore campaign workers in the county re-record their TeleQuest phone-bank message with instructions on how to cast votes for Gore, and instructing voters who believe they may have miscast their votes to return to their polling places and make a complaint. Talk show host Randi Rhodes, an outspoken liberal who lives in the county, tells listeners on her afternoon radio show: “I got scared I voted for Pat Buchanan. I almost said, ‘I think I voted for a Nazi.’ When you vote for something as important as leader of the free world, I think there should be spaces between the names. We have a lot of people with my problem, who are going to vote today and didn’t bring their little magnifiers from the Walgreens. They’re not going to be able to decide that there’s Al Gore on this side and Pat Buchanan on the other side.… I had to check three times to make sure I didn’t vote for a fascist.”
Late Afternoon Advisory - This afternoon, Harold Blue, a World War II veteran who like his wife is legally blind, realizes after he cast his vote that a poll worker improperly instructed he and his wife to vote for Buchanan and not Gore. When Democratic officials like State Representative Lois Frankel, State Senator Ron Klein, and US Representative Robert Wexler visit the Palm Beach elections offices to find out what is going on, LePore begins to believe that there may be a serious problem with the “butterfly ballots.” She reluctantly agrees to write an advisory for the various precincts, but says she lacks the staff to distribute it; if the Democrats want it posted, they will have to deliver the advisory themselves. LePore’s advisory reads, “ATTENTION ALL POLL WORKERS PLEASE REMIND ALL VOTERS COMING IN THAT THEY ARE TO VOTE FOR ONLY ONE (1) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND THEY ARE TO PUNCH THE HOLE NEXT TO THE ARROW NEXT TO THE NUMBER NEXT TO THE CANDIDATE THAT THEY WISH TO VOTE FOR.” Judge Charles Burton, a Republican member of the canvassing board, says he cannot understand the confusion, that the ballot clearly indicates by an arrow which hole is designated for Gore. Democratic board member Carol Roberts counters by warning Burton and LePore that some people are beginning to say the ballot may be illegal, and advises LePore to contact her own attorney. Burton says the ballot is clearly legal according to his interpretation of Florida election statutes, and that the law Democrats are citing—101.153(3)(a)—applies only to paper ballots, not punch-card ballots.
'File an Affidavit' - At 5:30 p.m., Democratic vice presidential contender Joseph Lieberman calls Rhodes in a prearranged “get out the vote” interview. The discussion quickly turns to the Palm Beach ballot confusion, and Rhodes urges Lieberman to consider “filing an affidavit,” presumably to contest the Palm Beach results. Florida lawyer Mitchell Berger is preparing to do just that, telling Brochin and other Democratic lawyers to prepare for court battles. [Tapper, 3/2001]

Entity Tags: Mitchell Berger, Randi Rhodes, Ron Klein, Lois Frankel, Robert Wexler, WPEC-TV, Theresa LePore, Lester Hyman, Patrick Buchanan, Liz Hyman, County of Palm Beach (Florida), Carol Roberts, Joseph Lieberman, Democratic National Committee, Ethel Brownstein, George W. Bush, Joseph Sandler, Jake Tapper, Harold Blue, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Bobby Brochin

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) joins the ranks of Democratic lawmakers unwilling to forcefully support Democratic presidential contender Al Gore’s attempt to force manual recounts in the Florida elections (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000). In an MSNBC interview, Torricelli says: “I consider myself a very loyal Democrat, but like most Americans, that does not begin to compare with my interest in the Constitution, or with an orderly process of government in a very unusual time in American history.… We should all insist in an orderly, fair, and honest counting of the votes. But, I believe collateral issues, or strategies that involve anything outside of those counting as the votes were cast, is not in the national interest.” [National Journal, 11/9/2000]

Entity Tags: Robert Torricelli, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

A screenshot of CNN’s on-air graphic declaring George W. Bush the winner in Florida. The graphic shows Bush with a 6,060-vote lead.A screenshot of CNN’s on-air graphic declaring George W. Bush the winner in Florida. The graphic shows Bush with a 6,060-vote lead. [Source: TV-Ark News (.com)]Republican presidential contender George W. Bush (R-TX) appears to enjoy a late surge in Florida votes, securing what appears to be a slim but decisive lead of some 50,000 votes. Led by Fox News (see October-November 2000 and November 7-8, 2000), the four major television networks—ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, and NBC News—begin declaring Bush the projected winner of Florida and therefore the winner of the US presidential elections. By 2:20 a.m., the last of the networks has projected Bush as the winner. [New York Times, 11/9/2000; Leip, 2008] The Associated Press (AP) refuses to make the call, saying that its figures show Bush with only a 30,000-vote lead, and that steadily dwindling. By 2:30 a.m., Bush’s lead, by the AP’s count, is below 19,000 votes; a glitch in the Volusia County numbers that comes in minutes after the call for Bush slashes Bush’s lead considerably, validating the AP’s reluctance to make the call. But the television broadcasts drive the story. Network pundits immediately begin dissecting Bush’s “victory” and speculating as to why Gore “lost.” [American Journalism Review, 1/2001; Nation, 11/6/2006] After the Fox announcement, Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile sends Gore a text message reading: “Never surrender. It’s not over yet.” But others in the campaign feel the campaign is indeed over. Gore’s brother-in-law Frank Hunger later recalls, “They were just so damn positive,” referring to the networks. “And they were talking about 50,000 votes, and we never dreamed they would be inaccurate.” The Gore campaign’s deputy campaign manager for communications, Mark D. Fabiani, will later recall: “I felt so deflated. It had been an evening where you won and then lost and winning felt a lot better than losing. You had been up and down and swung around and then dumped out on your head.” [New York Times, 11/9/2000]

Entity Tags: Mark D. Fabiani, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, NBC News, George W. Bush, Frank Hunger, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Fox News, Associated Press, CBS News, County of Volusia (Florida), Donna Brazile, Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, ABC News

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

A ‘New York Post’ headline from the morning of November 8.A ‘New York Post’ headline from the morning of November 8. [Source: Authentic History]After Democrat Al Gore retracts his concession in the Florida presidential elections (see 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000), the presidential campaign of Republican George W. Bush makes a decision to focus on one single message: their candidate has won the election, won the presidency, and anything else is wrong. In 2001, author Jake Tapper will write that in his brief conversation with Gore, “Bush doesn’t let on that he knows Florida is still in play. From this moment on, Bush and his team will propagage a myth, repeating it over and over to the American people: he won, definitively, at the moment his cousin called the election for him on Fox News Channel (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000).… [E]verything that happens from this point on is crazy, illegitimate Gore-propelled nonsense.” [Tapper, 3/2001]

Entity Tags: Jake Tapper, George W. Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The US electoral map as of the morning of November 8. Florida, New Mexico, and Oregon are still rated as ‘too close to call.’The US electoral map as of the morning of November 8. Florida, New Mexico, and Oregon are still rated as ‘too close to call.’ [Source: BBC]America wakes to a presidential election too close to call, though many morning newspapers, basing their headlines on the latest information received before going to press in the early morning hours, have headlines declaring George W. Bush (R-TX) the president-elect (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000). The margin in Florida stands officially at Bush with 2,909,135 votes (48.8 percent) to Democratic contender Al Gore’s 2,907,351 votes (48.8 percent)—a margin of 1,784 votes in Bush’s favor. 136,616 votes, or 2.4 percent, are registered to other candidates. Stories of voting irregularities are surfacing, particularly in Palm Beach County, where thousands of voters complain that their punch card ballots led them to vote for candidates they did not intend to select (see 7:00 a.m. November 7, 2000 and After). Later in the day, the Florida state government orders a full machine recount in compliance with Florida Election Code 102.141 that requires a recount of ballots if the margin of victory is 0.5 percent or less. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, recuses himself from the process. [Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit In and For Palm Beach County, Florida, 11/8/2000 pdf file; Jurist, 2003; Leip, 2008] The press reports that if the recounts do not clearly determine a winner, the US might have to wait “up to eight days longer as absentee ballots mailed from overseas are counted” (see 12:00 a.m., November 17, 2000). Governor Bush joins with Florida Attorney General Robert Butterworth, the Florida chairman for the Gore campaign, in a promise “to deal swiftly with any election irregularities.” Governor Bush says, “Voter fraud in our state is a felony, and guilty parties will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” [National Journal, 11/9/2000] Bush is credited with having won 29 states with 246 electoral votes. Gore has 18 states and the District of Columbia, with a total of 255 electoral votes. Oregon and New Mexico are also rated as “too close to call,” but because of the electoral vote totals, their total of 12 electoral votes are irrelevant. Florida’s 25 votes, however, are necessary for either candidate to win the election. To be declared president, one or the other needs to reach 270 votes. Wisconsin and Iowa are also briefly considered close, though Gore wins both of those states, and eventually Oregon and New Mexico (see November 13 - December 1, 2000), all with razor-thin margins. [Leip, 2000; CNN, 11/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Robert Butterworth, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

George W. Bush (R-TX), reiterating the message of his campaign that he has indisputably won the Florida elections (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000), meets with reporters on the patio of the governor’s mansion in Texas, accompanied by his vice-presidential running mate, Dick Cheney. Bush tells reporters: “This morning brings news from Florida that the final vote count there shows that Cheney and I have carried the state of Florida. And if that result is confirmed in an automatic recount, as we expect it will be, we have won the election.” Bush is referring to the machine recounts triggered by the closeness of the election results (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000). Bush tells reporters that the race will “be resolved in a quick way,” a statement contradicted by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who says the questions surrounding the race “will not be resolved for 10 days.” Harris will soon be brought to heel and make statements as authorized by the Bush campaign (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After). Bush takes a single question, then he and Cheney leave the lectern without speaking further. For his part, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore urges that the process be carried out “expeditiously but deliberately—without a rush to judgment.” Gore says: “We now need to resolve this election in a way that is fair, forthright, and fully consistent with our Constitution and our laws. What is at issue here is the fundamental fairness of the process as a whole.” Bush campaign aides tell reporters that they are preparing to transition into the White House, with Bush naming Cheney to head the White House transition team and former Ford Motors executive Andrew Card named as White House chief of staff. [ABC News, 11/9/2000; Tapper, 3/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Andrew Card, Katherine Harris, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

New York Daily News columnist Mike Barnicle, considered by many to be a liberal, tells MSNBC viewers that Democratic presidential contender Al Gore should concede the election. Barnicle says, referring to Gore’s father, former Democratic Senator Albert Gore Sr.: “This could be Al Gore’s moment. It could be the moment where he finally gets the chance to live up to his great father’s ideals and have the courage to step aside.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000; NewsBusters, 2011]

Entity Tags: Michael Barnicle, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Sr., Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda

James Baker and Warren Christopher.James Baker and Warren Christopher. [Source: Slate / Metrolic]The Gore campaign sends a quick-response team led by Al Gore’s former chief of staff, lawyer Ron Klain, to Florida to deal with the uncertainty of the Florida presidential race (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000). Almost immediately, Klain and his group are inundated with rumors of voting irregularities—understaffed polling places in Democratic strongholds, Democratic voters sent on “wild goose chases” to find their proper polling places, African-Americans illegally prevented from voting (see November 7, 2000), police roadblocks set up to keep voters from reaching their polls (see 11:30 a.m. November 7, 2000). Klain and his group are unable to ascertain the truth or fiction behind some of the rumors, though they learn about one that is verifiable—the problems surrounding Palm Beach County’s “butterfly ballot” that seem to have cost Gore some 2,600 votes (see November 9, 2000). Klain and the Gore campaign’s Florida head, Nick Baldick, learn that 10,000 votes for both candidates in Palm Beach have been set aside, uncounted, because of their classification as “undervotes”—votes that record no choice for president. Some 4 percent of Palm Beach voters cast their votes for senator but not for president, according to the machine scoring, a conclusion Klain and Baldick find hard to believe. They soon learn that many more “undervotes” were set aside in Miami-Dade County, like Palm Beach a Democratic stronghold. Broward County, which includes the heavily Democratic Fort Lauderdale region, is the source of a number of rumors concerning missing ballot boxes and unbelievable precinct totals. And Volusia County, another expected mine of Gore voters, initially reported a total of negative 16,000 votes for Gore. The automatic recount triggered by Florida law would not address any of these issues; manual recounts and human examination of ballots would be required to sort through the inconsistencies. Klain asks a number of Florida lawyers for legal advice and finds little help: the lawyers he contacts tell him that they are reluctant to give too much aid to the Gore campaign. “All the establishment firms knew they couldn’t cross Governor [Jeb] Bush [brother of presidential candidate George W. Bush] and do business in Florida,” Klain will later recall. Klain instead pulls together an ad hoc team to be led by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, now a lawyer in Los Angeles. Gore chooses Christopher because he believes Christopher will lend the team an image of decorous, law-abiding respectability. But, according to a 2004 Vanity Fair report, “Christopher set a different tone, one that would characterize the Democrats’ efforts over the next 35 days: hesitancy and trepidation.” One of Christopher’s first statements on the situation is given to Gore’s running mate Joseph Lieberman, with Christopher saying: “I think we should be aggressive in asserting our position. But we’ve got to temper what we do with the realization that the nation is focused on us and is expecting to act responsibly.” The Bush campaign’s approach is very different from that taken by the sometimes-timorous Christopher. Their quick-response campaign team is headed by Texas lawyer James Baker, a close Bush family friend and another former secretary of state. As Vanity Fair will write, the Bush team “dug in like a pit bull,” issuing frequent press statements that hew to the same line: Bush won the vote on the morning of November 8 (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) and therefore is the legitimate president. Any attempts to alter that “fact” amount to “mischief.” Privately, Baker worries that the narrative is untenable, telling his team: “We’re getting killed on ‘count all the votes.’ Who the hell could be against that?” The Gore campaign will ask for manual recounts in four counties, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Volusia (see November 9, 2000), and the choice of selective recounts, as opposed to asking for statewide recounts, gives Baker the opening he is looking for. [National Journal, 11/9/2000; Tapper, 3/2001; Vanity Fair, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: County of Palm Beach (Florida), Warren Christopher, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Miami-Dade (Florida), Ron Klain, Vanity Fair, Joseph Lieberman, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, County of Volusia (Florida), Nick Baldick, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, James A. Baker, County of Broward (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

A screenshot from NBC News’s November 19, 2000 ‘Meet the Press’ broadcast, featuring Tim Russert using a whiteboard to illustrate electoral vote tallies.A screenshot from NBC News’s November 19, 2000 ‘Meet the Press’ broadcast, featuring Tim Russert using a whiteboard to illustrate electoral vote tallies. [Source: NBC / Infoimagination (.org)]NBC political commentator Tim Russert recommends that Democratic presidential contender Al Gore either concede the election or wrap up his challege to the reported election results (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) to avoid being called “a whiner.” Russert says that the election recounts are a “crisis” that must be resolved as quickly as possible. Gore “can’t extend it to too long, nor can he become a whiner about Florida at some point,” he says, and adds: “If they continue then to file lawsuits and begin to contest various areas of the state, then people will begin to suggest: ‘uh-oh, this is not magnanimous. This is being a sore loser.’ I think the vice president understands that as well.… If it starts dragging into petty politics and we get to Thanksgiving and we still don’t know who our president is, I think the public will not have much patience with the candidate they believe is dragging it out.” The progressive media watchdog Web site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will note that polls show strong majorities of Americans favor continuing the recount process if it will ensure the accuracy of the voting results, even weeks into the recount process. FAIR will write, “[M]ost public opinion polls suggest that citizens are taking a much more reasonable approach to the situation than some of the elite media, supporting a process that emphasizes fairness rather than speed.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Tim Russert, NBC News, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda

’Corrected’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch from November 8 headline showing the uncertain state of the election.’Corrected’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch from November 8 headline showing the uncertain state of the election. [Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch / Authentic History]The US presidential election remains undecided as “final” tallies are reported. Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) has a slim popular vote lead, with 48,976,148 votes to contender George W. Bush (R-TX)‘s 48,783,510 votes, for a popular-vote margin of 192,638. Gore has won 18 states plus the District of Columbia for 260 electoral votes; Bush has 29 states with 246 electoral votes. Florida’s 25 undecided electoral votes will give either candidate enough to surpass the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency. [Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Gore campaign aide Donnie Fowler writes a memo to his boss, Gore political advisor Michael Whouley, while at a Palm Beach County, Florida, diner. Fowler notes the following:
bullet Palm Beach County rejected 19,000 ballots due to “double-voting,” or “overvotes,” where confused voters cast their votes for Democrat Al Gore and third-party candidate Patrick Buchanan. Fowler calls the ballot “confusing and illegal” (see 7:00 a.m. November 7, 2000 and After and November 9, 2000). The rejected ballots comprise 4 percent of the presidential votes cast, whereas only 0.8 percent of the ballots were rejected for overvotes in the Senate race on the same ballot.
bullet The voting trends indicate a possible Voting Rights Act violation: whereas 4 percent of ballots were rejected for overvotes county-wide, some 15-16 percent of the ballots were rejected in precincts with large African-American populations.
bullet Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore has picked up some 650 votes in the machine recount; Fowler expects Florida to certify its machine recounts (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000) by 5:00 p.m. today (see 5:00 p.m. November 9, 2000).
bullet Palm Beach elections board member Judge Charles Burton, the only Republican on the board, admitted in a press conference that punch-card ballot systems are faulty because, Fowler writes, “little dots punched out can interfere with actual counting by machine.” Others also criticize the “antiquated” voting machines.
bullet Reports exist of voters being turned away after the 7:00 p.m. poll closing time, in violation of laws that state voters already in line at closing time can vote.
bullet Evidence exists that a Republican county commissioner coerced a Democratic county commissioner into holding a recount test less than 24 hours after the polls closed.
bullet 500 absentee ballots were left at a post office on Election Day, and presumably were not counted.
bullet Poll headquarters registered some 3,000 complaints, an extraordinary number. There may have been more, but many voters were unable to get through on the phone on Election Day. [Tapper, 3/2001]

Entity Tags: Charles Burton, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Michael Whouley, Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Palm Beach (Florida), Patrick Buchanan, Donnie Fowler

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

ABC News’s Nightline broadcasts an hour-long analysis of the Florida election recount situation (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000). However, host Ted Koppel interviews three representatives from the Bush presidential campaign (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) and none from the Gore campaign, leading to what the progressive media watchdog Web site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will later call a slanted report. All three Bush aides call the recount situation a “crisis” that must be resolved immediately (see Evening, November 8, 2000), deride reports of voter manipulation and minority voters denied their right to vote (see November 7, 2000), and accuse the Gore campaign of attempting to steal the election through legal maneuvering. “Koppel did not subject his guests to tough questioning,” FAIR will note. [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]

Entity Tags: ABC News, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Al Gore presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda

In an editorial, the New York Times sounds a cautionary note about the Florida presidential election, warning both sides to avoid what it calls “scorched earth” solutions. It begins by accusing the Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Al Gore, of “escalat[ing] the atmosphere of combat surrounding the presidential election results with his decision to go to court in Florida” (see November 10, 2000). The Times acknowledges that “Gore has a right as a private citizen to take his grievances to court. But he and Governor George W. Bush [the Republican candidate and apparent frontrunner] are also political figures seeking the world’s most important leadership position. Part of the test of presidential leadership, it seems to us, is finding a way to resolve electoral matters in the political arena.” The Times calls the Gore campaign’s discussion of potential lawsuits “worrying,” accuses it of a “rush to litigation,” and says the Gore campaign should not be using phrases like “constitutional crisis.” Nor should it talk about “efforts to block or cloud the vote of the Electoral College on December 18” (though Bush campaign advisors have threatened just such efforts—see November 1, 2000 and After). The Times says it agrees with CNN’s Bill Schneider that to challenge the machine tallies in Florida would be to choose a “treacherous path.” The Times acknowledges that reports of voting irregularities (see November 7, 2000, Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000, and November 9, 2000) “need to be taken seriously,” but not so much so as to question the results as already reported. To call for manual recounts or file legal challenges, the Times writes, would “paralyze… the succession process, undermine… the finality of presidential elections, and make… nervous a world that looks to the United States as a model of political stability. Neither the prospect of legal warfare nor Mr. Bush’s rush to put together a transition team is helpful at this point.” [New York Times, 11/10/2000]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Bill Schneider, US Electoral College, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, New York Times

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda

According to media analyses performed by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and by the team of Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman, the Sunday talk show coverage of the Bush-Gore conflict in Florida between November 12 and December 10 is heavily skewed towards painting George W. Bush as the legitimate president (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) and Al Gore the losing contender who continues to carry on after having legitimately lost the election. On December 3 and December 10, panelists on ABC’s This Week refer to Bush’s future presidency 27 times. Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, does so 19 times and calls Bush’s running mate Dick Cheney the “vice president.” In a December 3 interview, Russert asks Cheney if he feels Gore is being a “sore loser” (see November 24, 2000 and After). On December 3, ABC’s Sam Donaldson attempts to get Gore’s running mate, Joseph Lieberman, to concede the election on-air. ABC’s Cokie Roberts attempts to get a concession from Gore campaign representative George Mitchell. Jamieson and Waldman later determine that in the five Sunday shows aired by the three networks during this time period, the word “concede” appears in 23 questions. In 20 of these questions, the hypothetical conceder is Gore. In the other three questions, the hypothetical conceder is no one. Similarly, the hosts and guests on these talk shows, and on other network news broadcasts, frequently warn of “dire consequences” to America’s constitutional democracy if the Florida question is not settled immediately. The hosts also issue frequent warnings that the citizenry’s patience is at “the breaking point,” though polls consistently show that most Americans are content to let the recall process work itself out. CAP later notes, “The Baker-Bush team [referring to James Baker, the head of the Bush campaign’s ‘quick response’ recount team—see Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000] worked hard to create this crisis atmosphere in the hopes of increasing the pressure on Gore to relent for the good of the country, the markets, and the maintenance of world peace.” During this time period, Russert tells viewers, “We could have chaos and a constitutional crisis.” NBC’s Tom Brokaw tells viewers: “If the Florida recount drags on, the national markets are at risk here. National security is involved.” Pundits on ABC’s This Week warn of “turmoil” if Gore does not concede; pundits on CBS’s Face the Nation remark on “spinning out of control.” Columnist David Broder says this period of US history is worse than the turmoil the country weathered after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. [Center for American Progress, 12/9/2010]

Entity Tags: George Mitchell, Tom Brokaw, Center for American Progress, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., ABC News, Tim Russert, David Broder, Sam Donaldson, Paul Waldman, James A. Baker, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph Lieberman, NBC News, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Cokie Roberts

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The Bush presidential campaign demands, and receives, a manual recount in New Mexico. Democrat Al Gore had an early, if narrow, lead in the state during the November 7 returns, but a programming error was found that gave Bush a slim lead. New Mexico’s five electoral votes were withdrawn from the Gore column and the state was classified as “too close to call” (see November 10, 2000). Bush picks up 125 votes on the recount of Roosevelt County. Although the Bush campaign and its Republican allies staunchly oppose manual recounts in Florida (see Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000, November 8, 2000, November 9, 2000, November 9, 2000, 11:35 p.m. November 9, 2000, November 11, 2000, November 11-13, 2000, and November 12, 2000), GOP lawyer and national committeeman Mickey Barnett says in a New Mexico court filing that there is, “of course, no other way to determine the accuracy of this apparent discrepancy, or machine malfunction, other than the board reviewing the votes by hand.” Barnett secures a recount of Roosevelt County’s “undervotes” (ballots that supposedly recorded no preference for president), noting that the county recorded 10 percent of its voters as registering no preference. Barnett and the Bush campaign do not ask for manual recounts of much larger undervotes in three largely Democratic counties. In 2010, columnist Eric Alterman will write: “The only conceivable reason why the GOP cared enough about New Mexico’s five electoral votes as late as December 1 was the fear that if it carried Florida by legislative fiat—in defiance of the courts (see 11:45 a.m. November 30, 2000)—it might lose individual electors in other states. New Mexico would have been a cushion against such defections.” Towards the end of the recounts, another error is found that gives Gore a 500-vote advantage. Gore receives New Mexico’s electoral votes. The final tally: 286,783 votes for Gore and 286,417 for Bush, with a difference in favor of Gore of 366 votes. [Leip, 2000; CNN, 11/13/2000; US Constitution (.net), 2010; Center for American Progress, 12/9/2010]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Roosevelt (New Mexico), George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Eric Alterman, Mickey Barnett

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The deadline of midnight November 17 for Florida to count and tally all overseas absentee ballots, under Florida Administrative Code, Chapter 1S-2.013, arrives. [Leip, 2008] A US News and World Report article indicates that the deadline is noon November 18, not midnight of November 17, though this indication is erroneous. Absentee ballots continue to trickle in and be counted throughout the day and into the evening. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Authentic History, 7/31/2011] Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), issues an opinion—in conflict with Florida state law—saying that absentee ballots can be counted even if received by mail up to 10 days after November 17 as long as they were sent from outside the country and postmarked by Election Day. Rumors of large numbers of military absentee ballots, presumably favoring George W. Bush in number, and a large number of ballots from American Jews in Israel, presumably favoring Al Gore, have swirled for days among the media and in both campaigns. A 2004 article by Vanity Fair will speculate that Mac Stipanovich, Harris’s “handler” from the Bush campaign, made the decision to have Harris issue her opinion after deciding that the likelihood of Bush gaining votes from the military absentee ballots was higher than the speculative Gore bounce from the perhaps-mythical flurry of votes from Israel. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Bush gains 123 votes from the absentee ballots (see November 15-17, 2000).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, Vanity Fair, Mac Stipanovich, Katherine Harris

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The Florida Supreme Court bars Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), from rejecting all post-deadline recount tallies (see 9:14 p.m., November 15, 2000) as well as certifying George W. Bush (R-TX) as the state’s presidential winner “until further order of this court” (see 10:04 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. November 17, 2000). It sets a hearing for Monday, November 20 to hear arguments on the recount dispute. The Court says flatly, “it is NOT the intent of this order to stop the counting.” [Supreme Court of Florida, 11/17/2000 pdf file; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Leip, 2008] Harris is prepared to certify Bush as the winner (see Evening, November 14, 2000), which would give him the electoral votes needed to grant him the presidency (see November 9, 2000). With that no longer a possibility, James Baker, the leader of the Bush “quick response” campaign recount team (see Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000), issues a public threat: the incoming Florida speaker of the House, Republican Tom Feeney, will, if necessary, take matters into his own hands and vote in an independent slate of “electors” who would journey to Washington and vote for Bush in the US Electoral College. Because both houses of the Florida legislature are dominated by Republicans, Feeney could pass just such a bill authorizing that procedure. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Bush and his campaign officials harshly denounce the Court’s ruling. Bush accuses the Court of using “the bench to change Florida’s election laws and usurp the authority of Florida’s election officials,” and states that “writing laws is the duty of the legislature; administering laws is the duty of the executive branch.” However, the liberal news Web site Consortium News notes that Bush seems unaware of the duty of the judicial branch, “a fact taught to every American child in grade-school civics class—that it is the duty of the judiciary to interpret the laws. It is also the responsibility of the courts to resolve differences between parties under the law.” [Consortium News, 11/23/2000]

Entity Tags: Tom Feeney, Florida Supreme Court, Katherine Harris, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, James A. Baker, Consortium News, US Electoral College

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Bush supporters display ‘Sore Loserman’ signs.Bush supporters display ‘Sore Loserman’ signs. [Source: CNN / Infoimagination (.org)]The Bush campaign works with Florida Republicans to orchestrate the so-called “Sore Loserman” campaign, playing off the names of the two Democratic presidential ticket members, Al Gore (D-TN) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), to bring pressure for the Democrats to concede the presidency to George W. Bush. Throughout the day, Republican activists protest and wave “Sore Loserman” signs outside the canvassing board offices in the Florida counties that are still recounting votes. One Gore ally is physically threatened by protesters outside the Broward County courthouse and requires bodyguards to exit the courthouse unscathed. Democrats charge that the protesters are trying to disrupt the recount effort (see 9:00 a.m. and after, November 22, 2000) and send a letter to the US Justice Department asking for an immediate investigation. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000] A few days later, Steven Meyer, a Democratic election observer in Palm Beach County, writes that both Republicans and Democrats are busing in protesters, but Republicans are paying protesters to participate. “I doubt that the people on the Democratic side are getting paid because we don’t have the cash,” he notes. Democrats who “infiltrate” the Republican protests will report being offered pay and expense money to keep coming back. He also writes: “Now, it’s reported that many of these protesters are the same people whom Cuban groups paid to stand outside of Elian Gonzalez’s home in Little Havana. It’s a regular cottage industry—have sign and clever slogan, will travel.” [American Prospect, 12/14/2000] Gonzalez is a young Cuban-American boy who became a cause celebre for some conservatives who accused the Clinton administration of enabling his Cuban father to “kidnap” him and return with him to Cuba after his mother died. [New York Times, 1/14/2000]

Entity Tags: Elian Gonzalez, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Clinton administration, County of Palm Beach (Florida), Joseph Lieberman, Steven Meyer, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, US Department of Justice, County of Broward (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Bush supporters in Florida celebrate Katherine Harris’s decision to certify Bush as the winner of the 2000 election.Bush supporters in Florida celebrate Katherine Harris’s decision to certify Bush as the winner of the 2000 election. [Source: Salon]Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), certifies George W. Bush (R-TX) the winner of Florida’s presidential election, though according to a Florida Supreme Court ruling she can choose to accept recount tallies through November 27 (see November 20-21, 2000). She chooses not to do so. Harris says Bush has a 537-vote lead. Her totals are: Bush, 2,912,790; Vice President Al Gore (D-TN), 2,912,253. The totals include none of the recounted ballots from either Palm Beach or Miami-Date Counties, both of which did not complete their recounts by Harris’s deadline (see 9:00 a.m. and after, November 22, 2000 and 2:45 p.m. November 26, 2000). Ongoing legal actions by both parties keep the election in doubt. Regardless, Governor Jeb Bush, George W. Bush’s brother, signs the Certificate of Ascertainment designating 25 Florida electors pledged to George W. Bush and transmits the document to the National Archives as required by Title 3, US Code, Section 6. Three days later, a Florida legislative committee will recommend a special session to name the state’s 25 representatives to the Electoral College, where they will presumably cast their votes for Bush. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008] If Bush is indeed the winner of the Florida presidential election, he has enough electoral votes to assume the presidency (see November 9, 2000). The Gore campaign refuses to accept Harris’s certification, and says it will ask Florida courts to order recounts of thousands of disputed votes. Gore’s running mate Joe Lieberman says, “This evening, the secretary of state of Florida has decided to certify what—by any reasonable standard—is an incomplete and inaccurate count of the votes cast in the state of Florida.” The Gore campaign is working out details of what will be a formal “contest” of the results, and will ask a state judge to order court-appointed “special masters” to complete interrupted recounts of about 2,000 uncounted votes in Palm Beach County and 10,700 uncounted votes in Miami-Dade County. They also want an inquiry into the Nassau County returns, where Gore officials believe Bush was wrongly credited with some 51 votes, and are considering challenging the legality of Palm Beach’s controversial “butterfly ballots.” Gore’s chief lawyer David Boies says: “We’re preparing contest papers that will be filed Monday, as early in the day as we can get them done. Until these votes are counted, this election cannot be over.” Republicans intend to use Harris’s ruling to publicly pressure Gore into conceding the election, pressure the Gore campaign says it is prepared to combat. Miami-Dade County, expected to yield enough votes in a recount to swing the election in favor of Gore, called off its recount under pressure from Republican protesters and due to time constraints (see 9:00 a.m. and after, November 22, 2000). [Salon, 11/25/2000; Guardian, 11/27/2000; Guardian, 11/28/2000] Investigative reporter Robert Parry will later write that Harris deliberately allowed Nassau County to throw out its recounted figures that gave Gore the 51 votes. [Consortium News, 8/5/2002] A brief furor ensues when some media outlets mistakenly report that 500 absentee ballots “not previously counted” were discovered in Broward County. The story is not true. [Salon, 11/25/2000] According to state law, it is only now that Gore can ask for a statewide recount. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Former President Jimmy Carter tells a reporter: “More than two weeks will remain before Florida’s 25 electors will have to be named, and then two more months before a new president will be sworn into office. We must not sacrifice speed for accuracy in deciding who has been chosen by the voters to take that oath.” [Salon, 11/25/2000]

Entity Tags: Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Florida Supreme Court, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., County of Miami-Dade (Florida), County of Broward (Florida), George W. Bush, County of Palm Beach (Florida), Katherine Harris, Robert Parry, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Joseph Lieberman, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Pundit and editor Michael Kelly, recently fired by the New Republic for his continued partisan attacks on the Gore campaign, accuses Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and his campaign of trying to steal the Florida election, and the presidency, through the courts. Kelley says that Gore’s “theft” is being facilitated by the Democratic Party. Kelly falsely states that most polls show “60 percent to 70 percent” of Americans want Gore to concede immediately (see November 12 - December 10, 2000), and says, again falsely, that Democratic “leaders and elders” are working in “virtual lockstep” to “stand behind their defeated candidate’s unprecedented defiance of democracy’s national edict” (see November 8, 2000, Morning, November 8, 2000, and November 10, 2000). The “Clinton-Gore crowd,” Kelly writes, has “created a crisis that would wreak more destruction than” the Clinton impeachment. “But with these men of fathomless selfishness, there is always more damage to be done. There is always another institution, another principle, another person that must be destroyed—for the greater good of their greater power.” Kelly says that Gore has relentlessy ignored “the results of a fair and full recount that confirmed his loss (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000), and demanded hand recounts only in selected Democratic counties” (see November 9, 2000). Kelly goes on to claim that Gore manipulated the Florida courts to “rewrit[e] Florida election law” to continue the standoff, “and still lost—a third time—to Bush.” When Gore promises to stand by the results of the manual recounts, Kelly says he is “lying” and has no such intentions. Kelly calls into question the Democratic election officials’ figures in Broward County, accusing the two Democratic officials of inventing votes over the objections of the single Republican official. Kelly concludes: “Democrats accuse Republicans of seeking to delegitimize a Gore presidency. Gore seeks more; if he doesn’t get his way he threatens to delegitimize democracy itself. Got to burn that village down.” [Jewish World Review, 11/29/2000; Center for American Progress, 12/9/2010]

Entity Tags: County of Broward (Florida), Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Michael Kelly, Democratic Party

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The cover of Jake Tapper’s book ‘Down and Dirty.’The cover of Jake Tapper’s book ‘Down and Dirty.’ [Source: OpenLibrary (.org)]Salon reporter Jake Tapper publishes his book on the 2000 presidential elections, titled Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency. In it, Tapper observes that the proof of the resiliency of American democracy comes in the fact that George W. Bush ascended to the presidency in a peaceful manner. The events in Florida that determined the Bush “victory,” from the initial dispute over who won the popular vote (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000) to the Supreme Court’s decision to award the presidency to Bush (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000), “brought out the ugliest side of every party in American politics,” Tapper writes. “Democrats were capricious, whiny, wimpy, and astoundingly incompetent. Republicans were cruel, presumptuous, indifferent, and disingenuous. Both were hypocritical—appallingly so at times. Both sides lied. Over and over and over. Far too many members of the media were sloppy, lazy, and out of touch. Hired-gun lawyers pursued their task of victory, not justice. The American electoral system was proven to be full of giant holes.” Democratic candidate Al Gore, Tapper writes, came across as “cold,” “ruthless,” duplicitous, and astonishingly out of touch with the electorate. Republican candidate Bush “was a brilliant schmoozer and deft liar” with the “intellectual inquisitiveness of your average fern,” betraying his fundamental ignorance about American government again and again during the campaign. “Both candidates were wanting,” Tapper writes. Of the actual results, Tapper observes: “We will never know who would have won Florida had all the ballots been hand-counted by their respective canvassing boards. Adding to the confusion were thousands of trashed or miscast ballots—including Palm Beach County’s infamous “butterfly ballot” (see November 9, 2000). We will never know who, therefore, truly was the choice of the most Floridians and who, therefore, really earned the state’s critical electoral votes and therefore the presidency.” [Tapper, 3/2001]

Entity Tags: County of Palm Beach (Florida), Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Jake Tapper, US Supreme Court, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

In a speech to the Commonwealth Club, former Vice President Al Gore discusses his views on the struggle against terrorism and the proposed war in Iraq. He says that the major focus of the US should be the apprehension and punishment of “those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold-blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans.” He states his belief that the US is capable of succeeding in this task, despite the fact that it is taking much longer than anticipated. “President Bush is telling us that America’s most urgent requirement of the moment—right now—is not to redouble our efforts against al-Qaeda, not to stabilize the nation of Afghanistan after driving its host government from power, even as al-Qaeda members slip back across the border to set up in Afghanistan again; rather, he is telling us that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein. And the president is proclaiming a new, uniquely American right to preemptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat.” Gore warns that “if other nations assert that same right, then the rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of fear.” He states that this policy of preemptive action will damage American international alliances and inhibit the effective execution of the war on terror, which requires a multilateral approach to succeed. Gore advises Congress to fully examine the evidence prior to any commitment in Iraq and to always bear in mind what he says are the core principles of the US. He says “the administration has not said much of anything to clarify its idea of what would follow regime change or the degree of engagement that it is prepared to accept for the United States in Iraq in the months and years after a regime change has taken place.” Ominously, he warns “the resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” Gore asks, “What if in the aftermath of a war against Iraq, we face a situation like that because we washed our hands of it?…what if the al-Qaeda members infiltrated across the borders of Iraq the way they are in Afghanistan?” [Commonwealth Club.org, 9/23/2002]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Charles Hockenbarger, an elderly activist for the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) of Topeka, Kansas, is badly beaten by an unknown assailant while carrying a sign that reads, “Thank God for September 11.” WBC members routinely praise the 9/11 attacks as being part of God’s vengeance on America for tolerating homosexuality. The church claims that Hockenbarger’s assailant is a homosexual and the beating is part of a larger murder conspiracy. Hockenbarger’s assailant will remain unidentified. [Global Oneness, 2011] Hockenbarger was convicted of assaulting a Lutheran minister in 1996 (see 1996). It is not known if the two incidents are connected.

Entity Tags: Charles Hockenbarger, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Reverend Fred Phelps, minister of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, announces plans to erect a monument in the Casper, Wyoming, City Park to “commemorate” the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard five years ago (see October 9, 1998 and After). According to Phelps, the marker would bear a likeness to Shepard and read: “MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God’s Warning: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.’ Leviticus 18:22.” Few Casper City Council members support Phelps’s plans. Councilwoman Barb Watters says: “When Phelps puts on one side his picture with the thing about killing all the gays, and they put on the other side of the thing a picture of Hitler that says ‘Kill all the Jews.’ That is what you are opening yourself up for.” Councilman Paul Bertoglio notes: “I think the hate language will find a very cold reception in this community. I think this community’s backbone is going to come up and say, ‘We are not going to accept it.’” Of Shepard, Phelps says: “It all comes back to Casper, Wyoming. That is his home, that is where he was born, where that church is, where those institutions… conspired in a confluence of evil resulting in a Zeitgeist that is extraordinarily evil. He [Shepard] was not a hero. This is a great monster sin against God. It is not an innocent alternate lifestyle. And all that has come down in that one little evil town called Casper, Wyoming. And we can’t ignore that.” The city will not allow the monument to be erected. [Casper Tribune, 10/3/2003] The WBC soon builds a virtual “monument” to Shepard on its Web site (see 1997), which depicts him burning in hell. A photo of Shepard is wreathed in animated flames, and mousing over the photograph triggers an audio response of recorded screams and a voice shouting, “For God’s sake, listen to Phelps!” A counter on the site displays how many days Shepard has “Been in Hell.” The site claims: “WBC does not support the murder of Matthew Shepard: ‘thou shalt not kill.’ Unless his killers repent, they will receive the same sentence that Matthew Shepard received—eternal fire. However, the truth about Matthew Shepard needs to be known. He lived a Satanic lifestyle. He got himself killed trolling for anonymous homosexual sex in a bar at midnight.” [Global Oneness, 2011; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Matthew Shepard, Westboro Baptist Church, Barb Watters, Fred Waldron Phelps, Paul Bertoglio

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) issues a press release condemning the presidential candidacy of General Wesley Clark. The church declares: “Gen. Clark opposed fags and dykes in the military BUT when he decided to run for President on the Democratic ticket he groveled like a mangy dog to the FagiNazis running the Democratic Party, and promised to lift the ban on gays in the military. His Christ-rejecting, God-hating Jew blood bubbled to the surface. Yes, like his boss [Senator John] Kerry [the leading Democratic presidential candidate], Clark is a Jew. That these two turds are Jews would not matter except when they ask for supreme political power and spit in the Face of God, pushing for same-sex marriage, threatening to bring down God’s wrath on us as on Sodom then some inquiries are in order. Beware! Jews killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. Apostate fags and Jews certains [sic] to bring God’s wrath.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2012]

Entity Tags: John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections, US Domestic Terrorism

Members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) picket a revival meeting held by the famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham. WBC members target conservative evangelists such as Graham for not joining them in espousing their “God Hates Fags” message. The protesters call Graham a “Hell-bound false prophet.” [Global Oneness, 2011]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Billy Graham

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) begins picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, displaying signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Fag Navy” that insult both homosexuals and soldiers. The church says that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality and persecuting the church. The church even claims that God chose to use improvised explosive devices—IEDs—to kill American soldiers because of an August 1995 attack on the WBC compound by someone wielding a small explosive device. Fred Phelps, the leader of the WBC, tells Fox News: “God is visiting the sins upon America by killing their kids with IEDs… and the more the merrier. Seventeen hundred so far, to 17,000. We will be ecstatic about [further deaths].” The first funeral picketed by the WBC is that of Corporal Carrie French of Boise, Idaho, who was killed on June 5 in Iraq. Phelps says of French and other slain soldiers, “Our attitude toward what’s happening with the war is [that] the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime.” In 2006, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will observe: “As a result of his amazing vitriol, Phelps has managed to do something few others have—unite Americans from the far right all the way over to the liberal left. Several anti-gay organizations have wondered aloud if he was some kind of plant designed to sully their cause. Be that as it may, the funeral picketing has prompted a number of patriotic groups to create motorcycle escorts to shield mourners from the Phelps crew, and to drown out their anti-gay chants with their engines. Numerous municipalities are weighing laws to prevent funeral pickets. But nothing has stopped Phelps, whose message, ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers,’ remains unchanged.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2006; Global Oneness, 2011; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] In 2006, Phelps will say, “Military funerals are pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom and play taps to a fallen fool.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Southern Poverty Law Center, Fred Waldron Phelps, Carrie French

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Angry community members in Smyrna and Ashland City, Tennessee, chase protesters from the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), which has recently announced its intention to protest at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (see June 2005 and After). The WBC says God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality by killing its soldiers in war, and its protests are designed to highlight that assertion. About 10 WBC members picket near the funerals of Staff Sergeant Asbury Fred Hawn II and Specialist Gary Reese Jr. Both were members of the Tennessee National Guard. Local residents have little sympathy for the WBC position; many chase the protesters’ cars down a highway, waving flags and shouting, “God bless America.” Local resident Connie Ditmore tells a reporter: “My husband is over there, so I’m here to show my support. To do this at a funeral is disrespectful of a family, no matter what your beliefs are.” The 10 WBC protesters are countered by hundreds of local residents, including many family members of other soldiers serving overseas. Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers are on hand to protect the protesters. As counter-demonstrators shout, “Get out of our town!” and “Get out of our country!” resident Danny Cotton says: “If they were protesting the government, I might even join them. But for them to come during the worst time for this family—it’s just wrong.” [Associated Press, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Connie Ditmore, Asbury Fred Hawn II, Gary Reese, Jr., Danny Cotton, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Albert Snyder.Albert Snyder. [Source: Associated Press]The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) pickets the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a Marine slain in Iraq (see June 2005 and After). WBC protesters display signs with slogans such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “You’re Going to Hell,” and “Semper Fi Fags,” while another signs depicts two stick figures engaging in what appears to be sodomy. The church also posts derogatory statements about Snyder and his father, Albert Snyder, on its Web site. In response, Albert Snyder sues the church in a Baltimore court for defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. [New York Times, 10/26/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Snyder claims his First Amendment rights to the freedom of religious exercise and assembly were violated, and the WBC claims its right to freedom of speech is violated by Snyder’s lawsuit. Snyder names WBC pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr.; church officials Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis, and other adult members of the church, including two of the elder Phelps’s daughters. The Phelpses and four of the pastor’s grandchildren picketed the funeral. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 10/2/2010] First Amendment expert Ronald K.L. Collins is leery of the case, saying: “The dangerous principle here is runaway liability in a way that would put the First Amendment in serious jeopardy. I dread to think what it would do to political protests in this country if it were allowed the win.” [New York Times, 10/26/2007]

Entity Tags: Ronald K.L. Collins, Matthew Snyder, Fred Waldron Phelps, Albert Snyder, Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The federal “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act” is passed by Congress, and will be signed into law on May 29. The law forbids protests at funerals within 300 feet of any national cemetery from 60 minutes before the funeral to 60 minutes afterwards. The law was written in response to controversial protests by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which has taken to protesting at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan (see June 2005 and After). In the months to follow, 20 states will enact similar laws, and many cities will pass ordinances tailored to prevent the WBC from protesting at local funerals, especially those of fallen soldiers. The American Civil Liberties Union will file lawsuits on behalf of the WBC’s right to free expression in Missouri and Ohio without success. [US Congress, 4/29/2006; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Some of the statutes include restrictions on faxing, in response to the WBC’s notorious use of faxes to inundate its enemies with floods of hate statements and other documents. Many of these attempts to restrict the WBC’s use of faxes ultimately fail, even though many of the faxes are defamatory and contain what many consider to be pornographic images. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]

Entity Tags: Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, Westboro Baptist Church, American Civil Liberties Union

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Fred Phelps, the pastor of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), posts a video entitled “9/11: God’s Wrath Revealed” on YouTube. During the video, Phelps tells his viewers: “Thank God for 9/11. Thank God that, five years ago, the wrath of God was poured out upon this evil nation. America, land of the sodomite damned.… We told you, right after it happened five years ago, that the deadly events of 9/11 were direct outpourings of divine retribution, the immediate visitation of God’s wrath and vengeance and punishment for America’s horrendous sodomite sins, that worse and more of it was on the way. We further told you that any politician, any political official, any preacher telling you differently as to the cause and interpretation of 9/11 is a dastardly lying false prophet, cowardly and mean, and headed for hell. And taking you with him! God is no longer with America, but is now America’s enemy. God himself is now America’s terrorist.” [Westboro Baptist Church, 9/8/2006; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] In an earlier Web posting about the 9/11 attacks, Phelps had this to say about the attacks and one of the American Airlines pilots who died in the attacks: “The Rod of God hath smitten fag America!… At left is the filthy face of fag evil. [Hijacked American Airlines pilot] David Charlebois. One of the hundreds of fags and dykes and fag-/dyke-enablers working for American Airlines.… If the fags have a secret funeral for David Charlebois—in order to frustrate WBC’s plan to picket his funeral—WBC will picket his house.… The multitudes slain Sept. 11, 2001, are in Hell—forever!” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, David Charlebois, Fred Waldron Phelps

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) announces its intention to picket the funerals of five Amish girls murdered in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse. The organization agrees to abstain from picketing in return for an hour of airtime on talk show host Mike Gallagher’s radio program. WBC leader Shirley Phelps-Roper tells Fox News host Sean Hannity that the Amish girls “did deserve to die.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] “The Lord your God is ramping up the issues, is smiting this nation,” she says. “What he did with one stroke on that day, sending a pervert in—because America is a nation of perverts—it’s appropriate he sent a pervert in to shoot those children. The Amish people were laid to an open shame because they are a false religion.” Phelps-Roper says that the girls also deserved to die because Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell had committed “blasphemous sins” against the WBC. Rendell had criticized the church for protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed overseas (see June 2005 and After) and has signed legislation restricting protests at funerals. [New York Times, 10/6/2006; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2009]

Entity Tags: Sean Hannity, Edward Gene (“Ed”) Rendell, Mike Gallagher, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a leader of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), is arrested during a protest in Bellevue, Nebraska. Today, as is her practice, Phelps-Roper wears an American flag around her waist, which she allows to drag the ground, and allows her son to stand on another American flag. Phelps-Roper is charged with desecrating the flag, negligent child abuse, disturbing the peace, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Three years later, the flag desecration and contributing to delinquency charges will be dropped, in part because a federal judge will have found the flag desecration statute unconstitutional. Bellevue will also pay Phelps-Roper $17,000 in return for her dropping of a lawsuit against the city. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The I-35W bridge collapse, four days after its occurrence.The I-35W bridge collapse, four days after its occurrence. [Source: Cobb Law Group]The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) announces its intention to picket the funerals of the people who died in a recent bridge collapse in Minnesota. The Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, recently collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145. The WBC released a statement after the collapse celebrating the deaths of the victims, saying that America, Minnesota, and Minneapolis are all being punished for tolerating homosexuality. Minnesota is the “land of the Sodomite damned,” the church states. WBC leader Shirley Phelps-Roper tells a reporter that the bridge collapse was an act of divine vengeance: “The bridge stood in place by the word of God and it fell by the word of God.… Each of these little events is just a harbinger of the coming destruction of this American experiment. We are delivering the final call of the doomed nation.” According to Phelps-Roper, signs at the protest will read, “God cast down the bridge,” “Thank God for 9/11” (see September 8, 2006), “America is doomed,” “God hates fags,” “God hates fag enablers,” and “God hates Minnesota.” [Minnesota Star-Tribune, 8/2/2007; Minnesota Monitor, 8/7/2007; Think Progress, 8/7/2007; MPR Archive, 2011] The announced protests never take place, and no local supporters turn out for any of the funerals. Local reporter and columnist Paul Schmelzer writes that the WBC is “notorious for no-shows,” and that the press releases are often issued to garner publicity and stir up controversy. Phelps-Roper implies that the protests are called off because the group feels threatened, saying, “When we have to divert a group because there’s something we need to get to more importantly, or we divert the group because we see the location where we’re headed to is so filled with rage that the gloves are off—they’re unabashedly breathing out threatening and slaughter—then we won’t come.” The ‘more important’ activities are protests at funerals of slain soldiers (see June 2005 and After): “[God] said, ‘I’ll drag you into a war you cannot win, and I will dash your children to pieces.’ Now how are we gonna connect that dot, if we don’t get to those dead soldiers’ funerals?… We’ve got all the time in the world. You’re going to be fishing bodies out of there for weeks. There will be more memorial services and there will be more funerals, and along the way we will pick some of them off.” [Twin Cities Daily Planet, 8/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Paul Schmelzer, Shirley Phelps-Roper

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A jury in the case of Snyder v. Phelps awards $11 million to Albert Snyder, finding that the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), its leader Fred Phelps, and six other members had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the Snyder family and violated its privacy. Snyder is the father of a slain Marine, and the members of the WBC had picketed his son’s funeral with signs featuring stick figures engaged in sex acts and messages such as “Semper Fi Fags,” and posted derogatory statements about them on the WBC Web site (see March 10, 2006 and After). The WBC has a history of picketing the funerals of dead American soldiers, claiming the soldiers’ deaths are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance for homosexuality (see June 2005 and After). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] The judge will later reduce the judgment against the WBC to $5 million (see April 3, 2008).

Entity Tags: Albert Snyder, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge Richard D. Bennett of the US District Court in Maryland orders liens against properties owned by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) to secure damages awarded at trial. For decades, the WBC has protested against homosexuality and other “offenses,” and has since 2005 picketed soldiers’ funerals (see June 2005 and After), causing tremendous controversy. The church is being sued by Albert Snyder, whose son, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, died in service. The WBC protested at the younger Snyder’s funeral, prompting the lawsuit (see March 10, 2006 and After). The jury awarded the Snyder family $11 million in compensatory and punitive damages (see October 2007), but Bennett reduces this to $5 million, which includes $2.1 million in punitive charges. One of Snyder’s lawyers says, based on his analysis of WBC financial records, that if the church is forced to pay even the lower amount, it would likely drive it into bankruptcy. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2007; Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Albert Snyder, Richard D. Bennett, Matthew Snyder, Phelps Chartered Law

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) issues a press release praising the loss of life resulting from the Sichuan earthquake that killed at least 68,000 Chinese. The WBC refers to the Chinese people as “slant-eyed b_stards,” and says that it praises God for the “Great Killer Earthquake that He sent to kill thousands of stiffhearted Chinese rebels against God.” According to the press release, WBC members are praying for “many more earthquakes to kill many more thousands of impudent and ungrateful Chinese.… God hates China.” Shanghai journalist Kenneth Tan writes in response: “Vile, vile words that could only have come from the pits of hell, and the devil himself. These guys know not who it is they are worshipping. Their words would all be very funny if their hatred were not so real.” [Shanghaiist, 5/16/2008; New York Times, 5/7/2009] In another response, Michael Standaert, a Western journalist living in China, challenges Chinese computer hackers to “take down” the WBC Web site (see 1997). [Huffington Post, 5/14/2008]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Michael Standaert, Kenneth Tan

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) announces its intention to picket the July 17 funeral of former Bush administration press secretary and Fox News commentator Tony Snow. According to the WBC, Snow deserves condemnation because he was a “critic” of their group and “a high-profile representative of godless Big Media and Big Government.” A WBC press release reads as follows: “07/17/2008 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Alexandria, VA Christ Episcopal Church (Lepor [sic] Colony) 118 N. Washington St. Tony Snow (Press Secretary for 6 ‘B’ George W. Bush) is dead, YES! He had a platform, he was given some small talent by his creator. He was an unfaithful steward, and is now residing in hell. Each opportunity he had to faithfully Report what the servants at WBC had to tell this country/world, Tony Snow besmerched and vilified the words of God and the people of God.” A blogger at the right-wing Newsbusters Web site asks that the Patriot Guard Riders, a group Fox News has described as made up of “veterans, soldiers, and civilians who often ride flag-bearing motorcycles accompanying funeral processions of soldiers killed in combat to shield the famil[ies] from unwanted attention,” intervene in the protest and “stop these fools.” The protest will take place without incident. [Fox News, 2/19/2007; Think Progress, 7/14/2008; Newsbusters, 7/14/2008]

Entity Tags: Tony Snow, Patriot Guard Riders, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a small, virulently anti-gay organization in Topeka, Kansas, led by pastor Fred Phelps (see November 27, 1955 and After), announces its intention to travel to Canada to protest at the funeral of a man murdered on a Greyhound bus in that nation. In response, Canada bars WBC members from entering the country. The funeral will proceed without incident. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] The WBC later claims to have evaded Canadian border patrol officials and successfully staged its protest. [Anti-Defamation League, 2012] WBC’s attempts to picket in Canada will result in Canada’s first hate-crime law, known informally as the “Fred Phelps Law.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Waldron Phelps

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) debate Professor Jose Gabilondo on Amendment 2, a Florida Constitutional referendum, which, if passed, would ban same-sex marriages. The two WBC members are Shirley Phelps-Roper (see October 2-3, 2006) and Margie Phelps, accompanied by Shirley’s daughter, Megan. Phelps-Roper has become the church’s most prominent member now that church founder Fred Phelps, 79, has apparently succumbed to age and declining health, and no longer plays as prominent a role in church affairs. The debate occurs at Gabilondo’s school, Florida International University, where he is the faculty adviser to a gay group at FIU’s Colege of Law. When Gabilondo registered his dismay at the invitation, one alumnus suggested that he suffered from a “lack of testicular fortitude.”
Controversy over Invitation of WBC - Amendment 2 supporters complained that the two WBC members were invited in order to cast Amendment 2 in the worst possible light. Faith2Action leader Janet Folger says of the decision to invite WBC: “That’s the most heinous thing I’ve ever heard. They go to the most radical group. It’s a deliberate attempt to make the pro-marriage people appear to be something they’re not.” Another supporter accuses Gabilondo of trying to set up an unfair confrontation between himself and “some mentally inbred misfits from Kansas.” And a local newspaper columnist called the WBC “a bottom-feeding group,” and said the pro-amendment case should be made by someone else. However, Gabilondo said more mainstream proponents declined to attend the debate, and, moreover, he “think[s] it’s a mistake to distinguish between respectable homophobia and unacceptable homophobia.”
The Debate - On the morning of the debate, the WBC Web site (see 1997) declares that its two members would engage FIU’s “feces eaters” in debate. Two police officers are on hand at the event, and debate organizers warn the audience of some 50 members to refrain from clapping or booing during the discussion, and Gabilondo says privately that he will cut the event short if it becomes rowdy. He tells the WBC representatives that he supports their freedom of speech and appreciates their candor. “He’s a friendly fellow and a likeable fellow,” Margie Phelps later says, but that does not staunch their rhetoric. During the debate, Phelps admonishes the audience to follow the Bible’s teaching of being fruitful and multiplying. “It doesn’t matter how long you anally copulate, you will not bear children,” she says. Children of divorced parents or who have gay parents “would have been better off stillborn,” she adds. While she speaks, her sister displays photographs of drag queens, gay pride parades, death, and devastation. “You embrace fags, which God calls abomination,” Phelps-Roper says. “You teach your children to be whores. Now you sprint to your destruction.” After the discussion, the two sisters pose with Gabilondo for photographs. Phelps-Roper insists that she does not hate homosexuals, saying: “The standard of loving your neighbor is warning them their behavior can send them to hell. It’s only a kindness to tell them… they’re going to hell.” [Orlando Sun-Sentinel, 10/16/2008; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2009]

Entity Tags: Shirley Phelps-Roper, Florida International University, Fred Waldron Phelps, Margie Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, Jose Gabilondo

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a small, virulently anti-gay organization in Topeka, Kansas, led by pastor Fred Phelps (see November 27, 1955 and After), announces its intention to travel to the United Kingdom to protest a performance of The Laramie Project, a highly respected play that documents the hate murder of gay student Matthew Shepard and how the incident impacted the Wyoming community (see October 14, 1998). The WBC protested at Shepard’s funeral, and tried unsuccessfully to raise a “monument” to Shepard vilifying him for being gay (see October 3, 2003). In response, the UK bans both Phelps and WBC church leader Shirley Phelps-Roper from entering its borders. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Fred Waldron Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Matthew Shepard

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) begins actively targeting Jewish synagogues, Jewish community centers, Israeli consulates, and other Jewish organizations and individuals, in what the Anti-Defamation League will consider an orchestrated attempt to express anti-Semitic views. The WBC begins announcing planned protests at dozens of sites, as well as bombarding various Jewish institutions and individuals with anti-Semitic faxes and emails. [Anti-Defamation League, 2012] In an April 23 press release, the WBC declares its opposition to Jews, writing: “JEWS KILLED JESUS! Yes, the Jews killed the Lord Jesus.… Now they’re carrying water for the fags; that’s what they do best: sin in God’s face every day, with unprecedented and disproportionate amounts of sodomy, fornication, adultery, abortion and idolatry! God hates these dark-hearted rebellious disobedient Jews.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2012; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

WBC leader Megan Phelps-Roper displays a sign outside the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Counter-protesters can be seen behind her.WBC leader Megan Phelps-Roper displays a sign outside the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Counter-protesters can be seen behind her. [Source: Think Progress]The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a small, virulently anti-gay organization in Topeka, Kansas, led by pastor Fred Phelps (see November 27, 1955 and After), holds a protest outside the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, which is attended by President Obama’s daughter Malia. The WBC Web site (see 1997) labels Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, “satanic spawn” of a “murderous b_stard.” The WBC protesters also picket the White House, the World War II memorial, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office, along with a number of other schools. The WBC also intends to protest outside the Bethesda campus of Sidwell Friends, where Sasha Obama attends. [Huffington Post, 11/9/2009] MSNBC host David Shuster posts on Twitter after the Washington protest: “Hopefully, some of the more rational conservatives/republicans will condemn this stuff today. It was beyond the pale.” Sidwell students and faculty stage a counter-protest, holding a banner with the Quaker phrase, “There is that of God in everyone.” A school official says none of the protesters try to enter the school. [Think Progress, 11/9/2009]

Entity Tags: Sasha Obama, Barack Obama, Malia Obama, Sidwell Friends School, Westboro Baptist Church, David Shuster

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An appeals court overturns the verdict in Snyder v. Phelps, in which the father of a slain Marine was awarded $5 million in a judgment against the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After). WBC members had picketed the funeral of Matthew Snyder (see March 10, 2006 and After), and Snyder’s father Albert Snyder filed a lawsuit against the WBC claiming harassment and the infliction of severe emotional distress (see October 2007 and April 3, 2008). The appeals court rules that even though the WBC protesters displayed “utterly distasteful” signs at Snyder’s funeral, the signs commented on issues of “public concern” and were therefore constitutionally protected speech. The court also orders Snyder to pay the church over $16,000 in legal feels and court costs, a decision Snyder calls “a slap in the face.” Snyder will appeal to the US Supreme Court (see March 2, 2011). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012; Anti-Defamation League, 2012]

Entity Tags: Matthew Snyder, Albert Snyder, Westboro Baptist Church, US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) sends what the Anti-Defamation League calls “a virulently anti-Semitic DVD” to Jewish organizations and individuals around the nation, in what apparently is an escalation of its recent spate of attacks on Jews (see April 2009). The DVD also attacks President Obama, calling him the “anti-Christ,” and includes vehemently anti-gay and anti-Catholic rhetoric. [Anti-Defamation League, 2012]

Entity Tags: Anti-Defamation League, Barack Obama, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Terry Jones.Terry Jones. [Source: ABC News]ABC’s Terry Moran interviews Terry Jones, the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Florida, who has gained notoriety by publicly announcing his intention to burn a Koran as part of what he has called “International Burn a Koran Day” (see July 12, 2010 and After). Jones says he and his church have conducted demonstrations before against the Islamic religion, which he calls “evil” and a source of worldwide terrorism. His plans, as they now stand, are to burn a Koran on September 11, in commemoration, he says, of those who died during the 9/11 attacks, and to protest “radical Islam” and “Shari’a law.” Such an act is itself “radical,” he admits, but “we feel that a radical message is necessary. We also want to send a message to the moderate Muslim to stay peaceful and moderate. We live in America, we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, they are more than welcome to be here, worship, build mosques, but we do not want as it appears to be in parts of the world after they gain in numbers in population they begin to push Shari’a law, that type of government. We expect the Muslims that are here in America to respect honor, obey, submit to our Constitution.” Jones says he has no problem burning the holy book of another religion, and cites Scripture which he says justifies the burning of books that are “damaging” and “dangerous” to a Christian society. He denies that the planned burning is a “publicity stunt,” and says he and his church members are “risking our lives” by carrying through with their plans: “We have had over a hundred death threats. Some of them have been very graphic.”
Admits Most Muslims Will Be 'Hurt and Insulted' by Koran Burning - Jones admits that most of the world’s Muslims will be “hurt and insulted” by the Koran-burning, and explains: “Well, when people burn the flag, when they burn the Bible, when they burn down churches, I’m also hurt and insulted. But we feel that this message to that radical element is that important. In fact to a certain extent we would expect moderate Muslims to agree with us. We would expect for them to say the burning of the Koran we don’t agree with, that’s not a message that we agree with. We do not believe that this man, this church, this society should burn our holy book, there is no problem with that. But the message we are trying to send with that even Muslims should agree with. We are trying to send a message to the radical element of Islam. They should also be against that. Because it makes their religion look very, very bad. They should also stand to that and say: ‘Yes, that we agree with. We do not want Shari’a law. We do not want radical fanaticism Islam.’”
'Millions of People ... Agree with Us' - Told by Moran that “millions” of American Christians are “revolted” by his plans to burn a Koran, Jones responds that “there are also millions of people who agree with us.” He cites polls that his church has conducted, and that he says prove between “40 and 60 percent of the population agree with us.… We’ve had several times pastors come here saying: ‘We are in agreement with you, what you are doing is right, or anyway the message that you are wanting to send is right. But we can’t say anything. If we do we will lose our congregation.’ We have people who work for large companies have stopped out front and said, ‘We are in agreement with you but if we say anything we will be fired.’ That is in a country where we supposedly have free speech.”
Holy War? - Asked if his burning of a Koran and his invitation to Christians to join in the burning are not incitements to “holy war,” Jones responds: “If [American Christians] have a problem with the burning of the Koran, that’s fine. I realize the actual burning of the Koran is a radical statement we feel very convinced about it, we plan on doing it, we feel its very necessary. But if Christians were to say that’s too much for us or just normal people, they say the actual burning of the Koran is too much for us, that’s fine. I can absolutely understand that. That is no problem. But they should, all Christians should agree with our message. Our message is that radical Islam is dangerous, let’s keep an eye on it, let’s say no to it. and from a Christian standpoint they have to agree with us. Because according to Christianity, Jesus Christ is the only way. And the Koran does not recognize the resurrection, the virgin birth, that Jesus died for our sins, that he’s the son of God, that he’s God. So from the Christian standpoint they must agree with us.” Jones says that if Jesus Christ were alive today, he would “absolutely” join in the burning of Korans. Moran says the burning of a Koran is “hateful,” and asks if there is not some other way to get his message across. Jones says that radical Islamists must be met by radical acts from those such as himself who oppose them. He says that no Muslim, moderate or radical, should react with violence to any such Koran-burning: “I don’t like it when they burn the Bible. I don’t like it when in Afghanistan when they burn the flag but I also do not serve a god of violence. It doesn’t make me want to kill people. It doesn’t make me want to storm an embassy. It doesn’t make me want to call for the death of the president and that is what we are trying to reveal. Of course its insulting. Of course it’s not a nice thing to do.” The burning would not be an act of “holy war,” he insists.
Concerns from Military Commander - Moran tells Jones that General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, has expressed his concern about any such Koran-burning (see September 6, 2010), and warned that such an action would jeopardize the lives and safety of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq; moreover, such an action would be used to recruit Muslims to extremist groups such as al-Qaeda. Jones calls Petraeus’s concerns “valid,” but says to call off the Koran-burning would be “backing down,” and he has no intention of doing so.
Turning the Other Cheek - Moran asks, “Didn’t Jesus say love your enemy and if you’re struck on one cheek, turn the other cheek?” Jones agrees, and says that Christians should follow that principle “90 percent” or “95 percent, 99 percent of the time.” However, this is not one of those times, he says. “[N]ow is not the time to turn the other cheek, now is the time to face challenge.”
Rejection by Fellow Christians - Other Christian churches in Gainesville are conducting services where passages from the Koran are being read, to oppose Jones’s plans and to encourage outreach towards Muslims. Jones calls those actions “an abomination,” and says only the Bible should be read in any Christian church. “[F]or us to read that book from pulpits, that, that is absolutely terrible.… Christianity is not open minded.… And when we do acts like that we have left the Bible, those people are not Christians, those men of God do not represent Jesus Christ.” He acknowledges that his Koran-burning may put fellow Gainesville Christians and others at risk of reprisal, but says the symbolic action is worth the risk.
Problems with Law Enforcement - Jones says he and his church have been repeatedly denied open-burn permits by local officials, in what he says are efforts to prevent him from burning the Koran in the front yard of the church as planned. He calls the denials an abrogation of his First Amendment rights, and compares his actions to the civil disobedience practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights protests. The FBI and local police will be on hand on September 11 for the burning, he says.
Conclusion - The interview concludes as follows:
bullet Moran: “And as of right now you’re going to go forward and burn Korans on Sept. 11th.”
bullet Jones: “As of right now our plans are to still burn the Koran on Sept. 11th. Yes.”
bullet Moran: “Such a hurtful thing to do to somebody.”
bullet Jones: “It’s an insult. But we feel that the end message is more important than the insult. Of course it’s not a compliment when you burn the bible or the flag or the Muslims’ Koran, obviously not.”
bullet Moran: “It’s sacrireligious, it’s a desecration of what they hold sacred and precious.”
bullet Jones: “To them. Of course to us, the Koran is an evil book, an evil deceptive book.” [Nightline, 9/9/2010]

Entity Tags: Terry Jones (pastor), David Petraeus, Terry Moran, ABC News, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Florida pastor Terry Jones, who earlier in the day announced that he would “never” burn a Koran as he has previously threatened (see September 9-10, 2010), issues a new set of demands from his Gainesville church, the Dove World Outreach Center. He has announced his intention to meet with New York imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, in an attempt to dissuade Rauf and his colleagues from building the Cordoba Center, a Muslim community center and mosque, a few blocks away from “Ground Zero,” the site of the fallen World Trade Center. (The Cordoba Center will later be renamed Park51.) Jones, accompanied by Houston evangelist K.A. Paul, announces that he will give Rauf two hours to answer his questions about relocating the Cordoba Center to a different location. “This challenge goes to the imam in New York,” Jones says at a hastily called press conference. “We would like to make an announcement to give a challenge to the imam in New York.” Paul, the head of the evangelical Global Peace Initiative, says: “[T]here is a confusion going on. We want to clear that confusion to find out if he has agreed to move the mosque from Ground Zero.” Neither Jones nor Paul indicate what, if anything, they will do if they do not hear from Rauf. Rauf does not contact the two and Paul says in response: “The last two days I have been in much prayer with Pastor Terry Jones. I asked the pastor not to burn the Korans, and I ask the imam not to build the mosque at Ground Zero. The pastor has agreed in principle” not to burn the Korans. Paul confirms that Jones will not burn a Koran as he had originally planned. Jones’s son Luke Jones, a youth pastor at their church, tells reporters that Paul is only speaking for himself. “There will be no Koran-burning tomorrow,” he says. “I can’t speak for the future.” Jones did not make a meeting with Rauf a condition of not burning a Koran during a morning interview on NBC, but said then that “God is telling us to stop.” Luke Jones and assistant pastors Wayne Sapp and Stephanie Sapp appear at the press conference wearing sidearms. Luke Jones says they are armed to defend themselves from people who have issued death threats: “The FBI’s been here four times. They told us the threats are very severe and we need to take them very seriously.” After the press conference, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, which routinely conducts anti-gay protests at the funerals of US servicemembers (see October 14, 1998), says it now plans to hold a burning of both a Koran and a US flag. [USA Today, 9/10/2010] Jones has also received calls from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in the Middle East, warning him that to burn the Koran would endanger US troops in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq (see September 6, 2010 and September 9, 2010). [Christian Science Monitor, 4/1/2011] Jones will later blame Rauf’s failure to meet with him as the reason for his decision to go ahead and burn a Koran (see March 20, 2011). [Daily Mail, 4/2/2011]

Entity Tags: K.A. Paul, Dove World Outreach Center, David Petraeus, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Westboro Baptist Church, Stephanie Sapp, Terry Jones (pastor), Park51, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Luke Jones, Robert M. Gates, Wayne Sapp

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) ceremonially burn a Koran in Topeka, Kansas, while singing parodies of hymns and patriotic songs. The members also burn an American flag. The action draws relatively little reaction, unlike an earlier Koran-burning announcement from Florida that attracted condemnation from President Obama (see September 10, 2010) and heavy press coverage (see September 9, 2010). Only a few local reporters cover the event, and members of Topeka’s Islamic community deliberately avoid the event. “I’m glad it didn’t get a lot of publicity and it didn’t draw a lot of people to the church,” says Imam Omar Hazim, of the Islamic Center of Topeka. “It seemed people in Topeka ignored what they were doing.” Hazim says he asked local Muslims to stay away from the event during his sermon the day before. “If we had 40 or 50 of us there and they started getting angry, things could get out of control. So I told them to ignore it.” Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten stayed home to watch football, and says the antics of the WBC are drawing less and less national attention. Referring to the Reverend Terry Jones, who orchestrated the Florida Koran-burning, Bunten says: “The fool in Florida one-upped them. They were apparently tagging along on his idea, so the fellow in Florida had stolen the stage, so to speak.” WBC events are “kind of old hat now,” Bunten says. WBC leader Shirley Phelps-Roper explains that the church chose to burn the Koran and the American flag because both are “idols” that people worship. After the burning, she says: “I thought it was awesome. It was another 14 on a scale of 10.” Some counterprotesters demonstrate during the event. One, Shaun Crouse, later says: “There’s already a holy war going on overseas. Provoking it is not what we need to do.… I understand freedom of speech, but this is wrong. Burning the Koran—that’s somebody’s holy book. What would you do if someone burned the Bible, the holy book of Christianity? You’d be pretty upset, too.” Before the event, Phelps-Roper accused Jones, the Florida pastor, of “jumping on the bandwagon” and “serving himself” instead of God. Hazim said that the WBC leadership may be “jealous” of the media attention bestowed upon Jones. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 9/10/2010; Topeka Capital-Journal, 9/11/2010]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Bill Bunten, Omar Hazim, Shaun Crouse, Terry Jones (pastor), Shirley Phelps-Roper

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Between two and three thousand people gather in what media reports call a “human buffer” to protect a military funeral from protesters sent by the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After). For at least five years, WBC members have picketed funerals of fallen soldiers, often using derogatory signs and catcalls during the proceedings (see June 2005 and After). The funeral is for Army Corporal Jacob R. Carver, and takes place in Harrisonville, Missouri, at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Carver was slain in Afghanistan on November 13. Local resident Steve Nothnagel, who takes part in the event, says: “This soldier died so [WBC leader Fred Phelps] could do what he does, as stupid as that is. I’m so proud of what is happening here today. This is a community coming together. I know it’s not just Harrisonville; they’re coming from all over.” The protection event was organized by word of mouth and on Facebook, and was modeled on a recent, similarly successful event in Weston, Missouri. The protective protest is so large that the WBC protesters have to conduct their protest almost a third of a mile away. When the WBC protesters begin shouting that Carver and other American soldiers died because of the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality, the counter-protesters override their shouts with verses of “God Bless America” and chants of “USA! USA!” and “Go home! Go home!” One man says, “We can’t stop them, but we can be louder.” The WBC contingent leaves before the funeral procession passes them, perhaps because of an altercation that nearly breaks out between the two groups. Area firefighter John Yeager, part of the “human buffer,” says: “We’re here for the family. Nobody should have to hear that on this day.” A group of motorcyclists and US veterans known as the Patriot Guard Riders also takes part in the preventative buffer; the Riders appear when invited to military funerals to protect the funeral proceedings from the WBC protests. One of the Riders, Donna Byam, says: “Look at all those flags out waving out there. [Phelps is] responsible for that.” Her husband Brad Byam agrees, adding, “A silver lining in a dark cloud.” [Associated Press, 11/24/2010]

Entity Tags: Steve Nothnagel, Brad Byam, Donna Byam, John Yeager, Fred Waldron Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, Jacob R. Carver, Patriot Guard Riders

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Arizona legislature unanimously passes legislation designed to keep protesters from the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) from demonstrating at the funeral of a nine-year-old girl murdered during an assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Governor Jan Brewer signs it into law almost immediately thereafter. Brewer says the law “will assure that the victims of Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson will be laid to rest in peace with the full dignity and respect that they deserve,” and praises lawmakers for what she calls “a remarkable spirit of unity and togetherness.” The bill, which does not mention the Tucson shooting of Giffords and others, prohibits protests at or near funeral sites. The bill is proposed and passed within 90 minutes. Christina Taylor Green will be laid to rest on January 13; she is one of six people killed in the shooting. Giffords and 13 others were wounded, some, like Giffords, gravely. The WBC said it plans to protest the funeral because “God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America.” State Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) says: “This is just horrific that people have to deal with this. We shouldn’t have to do this in time of great pain for our state.” Arizona’s law is modeled on a similar law passed by Ohio and upheld in a federal court of appeals. The Arizona law makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail to picket or conduct other protest activities within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service from one hour before the event to one hour after. WBC official Shirley Phelps-Roper says the church will go ahead with the protest, but at a location some 1,000 feet from the funeral. She says the church will also picket at the funeral of US District Judge John M. Roll, another victim of the shooting. State Senator Paula Aboud (D-AZ) says volunteers are organizing a “human shield” to block protesters from the view of family members. Senate President Russell Pearce (R-AZ) says the bill “is a good compromise that doesn’t trample our God-given rights.” [Associated Press, 1/11/2011] The next day, the WBC announces that its plans to protest the funerals are canceled. Church officials say the protests are canceled in return for an interview on a nationally syndicated radio talk show hosted by Mike Gallagher, a deal similar to one the church made in 2006 (see October 2-3, 2006), and other interviews on regional radio shows. Phelps-Roper says the interviews will give more publicity to the church than the protests would: “It’s always a question of where can you put the words in the most ears.” Gallagher says of his offer: “Believe me, I’m doing this show with a heavy heart. I don’t like the idea of giving them the satisfaction of this, but I believe my radio airwaves are less important than them hurting families.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/12/2011]

Entity Tags: Mike Gallagher, Gabrielle Giffords, Christina Taylor Green, Jan Brewer, Kyrsten Sinema, Russell Pearce, Shirley Phelps-Roper, John M. Roll, Westboro Baptist Church, Paula Aboud

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The US Supreme Court finds in favor of the vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) in a court case brought by the father of a slain Marine whose funeral was disrupted by a WBC protest (see March 10, 2006 and After and October 2007). A court initially rendered an initial judgment of $5 million against the group for causing “excessive” pain and suffering to the family (see April 3, 2008), but an appeals court overturned that verdict (see March 2010). Snyder appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that as a private citizen and not a public figure, he had an expectation of privacy that the WBC violated. “The [WBC protesters’] freedom of speech should have ended where it conflicted with Mr. Snyder’s freedom to participate in his son’s funeral, which was intended to be a solemn religious gathering,” Snyder’s lawyers argued before the Court. For their side, WBC lawyers, including church member Margie Phelps, argued that Snyder was indeed something of a public figure because he spoke to reporters after his son’s death and after the funeral, including giving quotes to reporters that excoriated the WBC. Additionally, the WBC denied interfering with or disrupting the funeral, and said that it was “well within the bounds of the law” when it picketed the funeral and used speech that was “hyperbolic, figurative, and hysterical.” The WBC pickets funerals, its lawyers argued, “to use an available public platform when the living contemplate death, to deliver the message that there is a consequence for sin.… It was about publicly-funded funerals of publicly-funded soldiers dying in an extremely public war because of very public policies of sin, including homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, and Roman Catholic priests molesting children.… The fact the speech was hyperbolic, figurative, and hysterical is why it should be protected. [It is] the essence of the kind of robust speech on critical public issues for which the First Amendment was written.” The Court rules 8-1 in favor of the WBC, saying that the group’s First Amendment rights protect it in debating public issues. Only Justice Samuel Alito dissents. The Court also notes that the WBC obeyed directions from local officials, kept a distance from the church where the Snyder funeral was held, and did not directly disrupt the funeral service. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts finds: “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” Many critics celebrate the reversal, saying that while the WBC’s actions were reprehensible, the original trial verdict, which found grounds for cause under the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, could be used to suppress freedom of expression in a number of other venues. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 10/2/2010; Topeka Capital-Journal, 3/2/2011; Anti-Defamation League, 2012; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Opponents of the WBC say they are relieved that the ruling does not impact laws designed to protect grieving families from the church’s protests at funerals (see January 11, 2011). Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt criticizes the Court’s ruling, saying: “Today’s decision is a disappointment for Kansans who have endured for so long the embarrassment brought upon our state by the shameful conduct of the Westboro Baptist Church. Our hearts go out to the Snyder family whose pain and distress were at issue in this case.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 3/2/2011] Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, says the ruling is more positive than negative: “Our highest court has reinforced the belief that our individual rights to free speech and assembly are so critical that we all must be willing to tolerate even that which the majority might find abhorrent.… It doesn’t say that what the Phelps family does or says is right. It simply says that in the United States, it is protected speech. When we start regulating speech, we’re headed down a very slippery slope. The Supreme Court is to be commended for refusing to take that route.” Snyder says the ruling shows that “eight justices don’t have the sense God gave a goat.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 3/2/2011]

Entity Tags: Derek Schmidt, Doug Anstaett, John G. Roberts, Jr, Samuel Alito, Albert Snyder, Margie Phelps, Matthew Snyder, US Supreme Court, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders block Westboro Baptist Church protesters from the view of memorial proceedings in Joplin, Missouri.Members of the Patriot Guard Riders block Westboro Baptist Church protesters from the view of memorial proceedings in Joplin, Missouri. [Source: PoliticusUSA]A number of members of the vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) protest at a memorial in Joplin, Missouri, where 125 people died in a recent outbreak of tornadoes. In a press release, the WBC said, “Thank God for 125 dead in Joplin,” and announced its plans to send protesters to the memorial service. WBC members claim Governor Jay Nixon (R-MO) has attacked them by promoting laws banning them from protesting at soldiers’ funerals (see June 2005 and After). President Obama speaks at the memorial service. According to one participant at the memorial service, some 300 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group composed largely of veterans who work to form “human shields” between WBC protesters and funeral services, almost completely block the view of the memorial participants from the WBC protesters. One WBC member attempts to walk through the “wall” of Riders toward the memorial, but is accosted and prevented from proceeding; apparently the WBC member is repeatedly pushed and has his shirt torn off. The police succeed in separating the WBC member and the Riders, apparently using pepper spray, and tell the WBC member to “run, you stupid motherf_cker.” A reporter later writes, “No one was injured and the confrontation lasted only seconds.” Allegedly, another group of WBC members is accosted by Riders at a nearby truck stop and prevented from going to the memorial service. [KARK-TV, 5/27/2011; PoliticusUSA, 5/30/2011; Ozarks First, 5/30/2011; Truth Wins Out, 5/30/2011]

Entity Tags: Patriot Guard Riders, Barack Obama, Westboro Baptist Church, Jay Nixon

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI confirms that it allowed members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) to take part in training sessions normally provided to police officers and FBI agents. WBC members participated in training sessions at two Virginia FBI facilities in Quantico and Manassas. The FBI says that it will not allow WBC members to participate in future sessions. An FBI official says the bureau underestimated how strongly the public would react to the news of such participation once it was reported in the media. The bureau was trying to bring in a variety of viewpoints to the training, the official adds, saying that exposure to a wide variety of views was good for investigators in training. [Associated Press, 6/29/2011]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Margie Phelps, a leader of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After), posts abusive comments to the parents of a Birmingham, England, boy who died from an inoperable brain tumor hours earlier. Eleven-year-old Harry Moseley had raised some £500,000 in donations during the last months of his life. Phelps posts three comments on Twitter berating Moseley and his family. One reads: “No #RIPHarry for Harry Moseley. Hating parents made him an idol; now you raise $$ on his dead body! #shame #nooneisinnocent.” Another strikes out at prominent area football (soccer) players who had supported Harry’s quest to raise money for charity before his death. Phelps says the “emotional tributes” of the over 70,000 messages of love and condolence sent to the Moseley family on Twitter were “phony” and the posters “[s]hould’ve told Harry Moseley to obey God!” Finally, she posts: “What Harry Moseley needed more than cancer treatment was the TRUTH about God, Heaven & Hell. He didn’t get that. Now it’s too late.” Moseley’s mother Georgie Moseley calls Phelps’s comments “vile,” and adds, “I am very, very angry that someone can say that about an 11-year-old boy who has just died.” [Birmingham Mail, 10/10/2011]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church, Harry Moseley, Georgie Moseley, Margie Phelps

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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