During debate Wednesday on a hate crimes bill on the floor of the U.S. House, Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said the hate crime committed against Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was a hoax.
The comment came in the same period of debate when Foxx also misquoted and misrepresented a commentary written by liberal Glenn Greenwald.
“The bill was named after a very unfortunate incident that happened, where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay,” the congresswoman said. “The bill was named for him, the hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s, it’s really a hoax, that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, condemned Foxx’s remarks.
“Vile lies, like the one spread by Rep. Foxx today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives about Matthew’s brutal hate-fueled murder, continues to underscore how extreme anti-LGBT opponents have become,” said Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign. “It is no longer acceptable in this day and age to just come right out and say you don’t like gay people. Instead, extremist opponents of equality must resort to these types of malicious and twisted lies. Rep. Foxx should be ashamed of herself.”
In a statement from the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Judy Shepard said, “We are going focus on the successes that we have had in the present and look forward to the possibilities of the future, rather than spend time on the misconceptions that Rep. Virginia Foxx may have.”
The bill passed the House 249-175.
Unfortunately for Foxx, the facts of Shepard’s murder have clearly indicated he was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime.
In an Oct. 12, 1998 article, The New York Times wrote, “According to the local police and prosecutors, the two men lured Mr. Shepard out of a bar by saying they were gay. Then, the Laramie police say, the pair kidnapped Mr. Shepard, pistol-whipped him with a .357 Magnum, and left him tied to a ranch fence for 18 hours until a passing bicyclist spotted Mr. Shepard, who was unconscious.”
During the trial, the defendants also attempted to use a “gay panic” defense. Police involved in the investigation of the Shepard murder have insisted it was at least partly motivated by anti-gay bias.
In a November 1999 article, Slate magazine wrote, “According to detectives who interviewed both of the convicted murderers, there is no evidence that Shepard made any sexual advances to the pair — and the detectives dismissed the idea that the murder was the mere result of a robbery gone bad. ‘Far from that!’ scoffed Sgt. Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case. ‘They knew damn well he was gay … It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.'”
Kristen Price, a girlfriend of the one of the killers, also told 20/20 in 1998, “They just wanted to beat him bad enough to teach him a lesson, not to come on to straight people, and don’t be aggressive about it anymore.”
A press spokesperson at Virginia Foxx’s Washington, D.C., office was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. In a statement made to several news outlets, Foxx said her comments were a “poor choice of words.” Foxx represents a large portion of the North Carolina’s Piedmont-Triad and much of the northwestern part of the state, including Winston-Salem, Mount Airy, Boone and other cities.
— Media Matters for America Action Network contributed to this report.