may 2009

Dunce's Corner

Virginia Foxx

U.S. Representative from the 5th District of North Carolina

It certainly is fascinating to watch the Republican implosion on a daily basis, with its deliberate distortions of fact, its bald-faced hatred for President Obama, its seemingly bottomless well of venom for anything that isn't white, heterosexual and at least middle-aged. Media Matters recently became so concerned over Boss Limbaugh's daily distortions of truth that it assigned a reporter to file hourly online reports on the drug abuser's on-air rantings, and provide point-by-point refutation of all his charges against the current Administration by simply citing the on-the-record facts about whichever Obama policy or public comment is being twisted to satiate the ravenous lunatic fringe to which he preaches these days. We refuse to become inured, however, to the vicious, bigoted, McVeigh-like hatred welling up in these ranks and spewing forth on a daily basis in the mainstream media courtesy cowards such as Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity (we're still waiting for your waterboarding, Sean, and Keith Olberman's got his checkbook in hand, ready to donate money to your favorite charity for every minute you stay under, you smug blowhard), et al. But on April 29, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx outdid even Savage in the hate-mongering department when she stepped onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and disgraced herself, her position, her state and this country by railing against a hate crimes bill and adding that the murder of Matthew Shepard was "a hoax"—while Shepard's mother sat in the gallery listening.

"We know that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay," Foxx said on the House floor. "The bill was named for him, the hate-crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."

To recap: Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, then 21 years old, left a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, with two young men met he had there, Aaron James McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson. After driving to a remote rural area, McKinney and Henderson proceeded to rob, pistol whip, and torture Shepard, before tieing him to a fence with rope and leaving him to die. Shepard suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs, and also a dozen or so small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were so severe doctors could not operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998. Under oath, girlfriends of both suspects testified that McKinney and Henderson had planned to rob a gay man. Subsequent attempts by reporters (notably Elizabeth Vargas on ABC's 20/20) to attribute the crime to other factors—a robbery for drug money, first and foremost—didn't pass the laugh test with investigators closest to the case. Retired Police Chief of Laramie, Commander Dave O'Malley—who was interviewed by ABC and criticized the 20/20 report—told the Laramie Boomerang that the drug motive did not necessarily disqualify the murderers' anti-gay motive: "My feelings have been that the initial contact was probably motivated by robbery because they needed money," said O'Malley. "What they got was $20 and a pair of shoes. Then something changed and changed profoundly. But we will never, ever know because Matt's dead and I don't trust what [McKinney and Henderson] said."

On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592) was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Matthew's parents, Judy and Dennis, were present at the introduction ceremony. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007. Similar legislation passed in the Senate on September 27, 2007 (S. 1105), but was vetoed by President George W. Bush. Upon assuming the Presidency, Barack Obama indicated his intention to support passage of the Act. The House debate that should be a career swan song for Rep. Foxx centered on expansion of the hate crimes bill. It passed the House by a vote of 249 to 175.

Typical of people who get caught redhanded acting the fool, Rep. Foxx issued an apology the next day, saying, "The term 'hoax' was a poor choice of words used in the discussion of the hate-crimes bill. Mr. Shepard's death was nothing less than a tragedy, and those responsible for his death certainly deserved the punishment they received."

Then, in true weasel fashion, as quickly as she had apologized did she prove entirely predictable in laying blame for her callous misstep on the press's doorstep, citing what she claimed were erroneous "media accounts" of the murder as the basis for her repugnant attack on a young man who was tortured to death. It's the darndest thing—these GOPers can't seem to get enough of torture. No wonder Olympia Snow, a moderate—and therefore endangered—Republican Senator from Maine, penned an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on April 29, bemoaning the loss of Arlen Spector to the Democratic Party and observing, in part: "There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party."

Tell it to the Boss. And Rep. Foxx—don't let the doorknob hit you...well, you know.

You can call Foxx's office to lodge a complaint or, better yet, demand she resign: 336-778-0211 will get you there.

You can see it and hear it for yourself here:

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