As the House of Representatives debates an expansion of hate crimes legislation, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has taken the rhetoric to a new level, claiming that those who say Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming for being gay are perpetrating a "hoax" on the American people.
"I also would like to point out that there was a bill -- the hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard bill is 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 a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay. This -- the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills," said Foxx.
A Foxx spokesman didn't immediately return a call. The Matthew Shepard "hoax" notion is a popular meme on right-wing blogs.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is dedicated to reducing hate crimes.
The New York Times reported in 1998: "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."
"She should be ashamed," said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), himself a victim of a hate crime during the struggle for civil rights. "That is unreal, unbelievable. The law enforcement people and almost every reasonable person I know believes he was murdered because he was gay."
UPDATE: Glenn Thrush has it that his mother may have been in the gallery when Foxx aired her theory.
"Matthew Shepard's mother was in the gallery yesterday and I believe she was back today -- so I'm sorry she had to be around to hear it," Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told Thrush. "It's an urban myth... And I'd tell her that man did land on the moon and the moon wasn't made out of green cheese."
Media Matters uploaded the video of Foxx's statement. WATCH:
UPDATE: A reader says that the only phone number for Foxx that doesn't go to a totally full voice mail box is at her campaign office -- 877-253-0861. Just sayin'.
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America