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Virginia Foxx: Matthew Shepard's Murder Not a Hate Crime

Updated, 6:21 p.m. ET

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has done it again. Earlier this month she dropped the racially charged term "tar baby" on the House floor. Today, she said the murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard in 1998 was not a hate crime.

"It's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing [hate crimes] bills," Foxx said on the House floor during debate on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Foxx opposes a bill being considered that would extend federal hate crimes protections to cover crimes committed because of a person's gender, sexual orientation or disability.

She called Shepard's murder a "very unfortunate incident" but said "we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay."

And guess who was in the House gallery to hear Foxx say this? Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy, according to Democratic sources.

To refresh your memory on what happened to her son> two men tied the University of Wyoming college freshman to a fence and savagely pistol whipped and beat him to death. Before doing it, one of the killers tauntingly said to Shepard, "It's Gay Awareness Week."

Ironically, Foxx is part of a GOP leadership team tasked with finding embarrassing, "You-Tube worthy moments" of vulnerable Democratic freshmen and sophomores.

Here's what gay liberal blogger John Arivosis has to say about Foxx's comments. Stay tuned: there will be plenty more outrage from the gay rights community.

UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign, a leading Washington based gay-rights group, is furious with Congresswoman Foxx.

"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," says Brad Luna, a spokesman for HRC. "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."

HRC also notes the following groups have endorsed the hate-crimes bill opposed by Foxx: the National Sheriffs Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 26 state Attorneys General; the National District Attorneys Association; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; the Anti-Defamation League; the NAACP; the National Council of La Raza; the Presbyterian Church; the Episcopal Church; and the National Disability Rights Network.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 29, 2009; 2:56 PM ET
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Shepard died in 1998, not 1988.

Posted by: jennifer6 | April 29, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

so wait, the guy who killed my beloved box turtle CAN be prosecuted?

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | April 29, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

How low will these sick Republicans go? Virginia Foxx is subhuman scum.

The GOP has no shame, no conscience, no humanity.

Soon they'll have no supporters either.

Posted by: Brittman1 | April 29, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Virginia Foxx is an abomination on the House Floor. Referring to Mathew Shepard's murder as a hoax should cause her to be removed from her seat. Were she to refer to the Holocaust as a hoax would she be tolerated? This is not her first offensive statement. She also referred to "tar babies." Given her bigotry the time has come for this Congresswoman to have her seat to lose her seat.

Posted by: Danbp1 | April 29, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Wow, all this unhinged venom spit at Rep. Foxx, yet the idea that this was a "hate crime" has been in question since at least 2004. Here's the 5-year old ABC story:

The two murderers had been on a week-long meth binge and had already planned the robbery of another person earlier that night. After Shepherd's murder they also cracked the skull of another man before being chased off by police.

One need not be a bigot to realize this very well may not have been a crime motivated by sexual orientation. Those of you calling for Rep. Foxx's head might want to deal with your own hate issues before taking on politics.

Posted by: yourconscience | April 29, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of Madame Foxx's district I implore the DNC to give adequate financial backing to the next Democrat who goes up against this ignorant troll. In the last election she outspent her opponent about 20 to 1 and he still managed to beat her in her home county. Too many people vote for her because they know her name or because she learned from Jesse Helms the importance of constituent service. We faithful NC Democrats believe she can be beaten. PLEASE help us!!

Posted by: lifetimestudent | April 29, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

I am a human rights activist who is a Democrat. However, I have never understood why a "hate crimes" law is necessary, because
an assault on a homosexual or ethnic minority or whatever is no more heinous than an assault on anyone else, and all assaults should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Why special protection for categories of people? Are they more deserving than "ordinary" folk?

Posted by: arussell91 | April 30, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Yourconscience has a point. The legitimacy of this event as a hate crime has been in question for a long time. I graduated from the University of Wyoming, so I have a feel for what the locals think. And I would say that the majority (but not overwhelmingly so) of the town sees the Shepard case as a drug deal/robbery gone bad. I'm not saying that makes it the definitive truth. Rather, I'm saying that the congresswoman isn't entirely off her rocker just for saying that it wasn't a hate crime. There is precedent.

Posted by: Ryno | April 30, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Does it matter if Matthew Shepard's death was a hate crime?

The question is, why wouldn't someone want to offer protection from hate crimes based on gender, disability or sexual orientation? Ms. Virginia Foxx completely ignores the other two issues, gender and disability and focuses on the gay issue more predominately while using Matthew Shepard's story to provide herself a measure of self-righteousness for her lack of humanity.

Posted by: tgialmostjanuary | April 30, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I live in Ginny's home county which has gone Democrat and voted her down TWICE! There are enough goobers in the rest of the district to push her over the top. She is an embarrasment to NC. She has been lampooned by Jon Stewart twice and has the dubious distinction of being a YouTube creature herself. The GOP here in Watauga County didn't even field a single candidate in 2008.

Posted by: willandjansdad1 | April 30, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

What Foxx is saying is hate crime.

Posted by: a2mi | April 30, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately for me, I live in Foxx's district & have been embarrassed by her antics on the house floor many times. Each time I call her office & usually her staff is very defensive. Today however, they admit her remarks were over the top and stated she has apologized. Asked if her apology was made on the floor or to Ms. Shepard, her staff didn't know.

Posted by: Deecarda | April 30, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Virginia Foxx should resign from public service immediately. This country has enough problems without dealing with her ignorance!! North Carolina should be embarrassed to have someone like this representing them. Remember, she is the voice of the people. Her remarks left me stunned.

Posted by: te52404 | April 30, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Both of the murderers' girlfriends testified that they said they were planning on robbing a gay guy.

In answer to arussell91, who asks why we need hate crime enhancements when criminal laws are "sufficient"...

The reason is the same as why terrorism is punished more strongly than generic murder. Hate crime (crime with evidence of motivation caused by hatred toward a particular group) terrorizes all the members of that group, not just the victim.

So when it is known that you yelled "die f@ggot" as you beat a boy's face in, it increases the harm, not just to him, but it also threatens an entire community, because it can be concluded that he was killed because he was a member of tha community.

Posted by: Daveyboy1 | April 30, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the Shepard murder WAS a "hate-crime", within the ordinary meaning of that term... but this stupid debate underscores the wasteful foolishness of "hate-crime" laws.

Instead of focussing on the provable facts of a this case a brutal MURDER, these laws turn on demonstrably UNprovable factors of intent that are ultimately ONLY known and only knowable by the perp. So here we are debating those unprovable, unknowable details, instead of just putting the slob who did it in jail, and forgetting him.

Every victim deserves the same protection from crime, whether they are gay or straight, a policeman or a civilian, a well-connected doctor with a large family or a bum on the street. I don't CARE why a particular low-life murdered someone(ie, greed vs bigotry)...only THAT he did so. The victim is just as dead, either way. And that is enough to toss the perp's behind in the clink, and throw away the key.

Posted by: Observer44 | April 30, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Daveyboy1, you are so correct, Your analogy about hate crimes compared to terrorism is very apt. It shows that already there are special considerations for punishment due to added factors in the commission of any crime. Perhaps that concept is just too intellectual for Representative Foxx. She obviously seems incapable of getting her ideas around such complicated issues for her. But just pass the law without her help. Her entire approach is so bigoted.

Posted by: mari2JJ | May 1, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

This is Virginia Foxx, the" tar-baby" lady, who calls herself Dr. Foxx, because of a little Ph.D in Sociology from somewhere Southern. This is the church lady version of Jesse Helms from a district carved-out white as the driven snow.

Virginia Foxx habitually misinformed, hate-crimes-denier and the future of the Republican Party. Mrs Foxx should form a PAC with Michelle Bachmann to call themselves the "New Faces of the GOP." They could say: "We are the new faces of the Republican Party; just like the old faces but prettier." Who could argue with that? Everybody's prettier than Jesse Helms. And who can dispute the fact that the GOP needs a new face?

So, I guess we can expect to hear more from Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, the new voice of the Old South. We'll see...jt

Posted by: JoeyTranchina | May 3, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

arussell91 wrote: "I am a human rights activist who is a Democrat. However, I have never understood why a "hate crimes" law is necessary, because an assault on a homosexual or ethnic minority or whatever is no more heinous than an assault on anyone else, and all assaults should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Why special protection for categories of people? Are they more deserving than "ordinary" folk?"

That is a sincere argument. I understand because I thought and argued that way for many years. The logic is sound. Every crime against an innocent person deserves to be taken equally seriously. I understand your point of view but I now believe that I overlooked a significant fact. The fact is that far too often local law enforcement shares the prejudices of the predators and crimes against victims who the police don't take seriously do not get prosecuted.

In an ideal world, this legislation would not be necessary to attain equal justice for all. As a practical matter, it is necessary in that it enforces correction of grave injustices that are perpetrated on a regular basis. If hate crimes were equally and aggressively prosecuted, this legislation would be unnecessary. They are not and, in many jurisdictions, they will not be without the passage of federal hate-crimes legislation. Theoretical justice is not good enough; victims have the right to demand justice in fact.

Posted by: JoeyTranchina | May 3, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

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