WASHINGTON – Family Research Council President Tony Perkins today said the “reckless rhetoric” of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center created the atmosphere that fostered the attack yesterday by a gunman on the Christian organization’s office in Washington.

In a press conference in front of the council’s Washington headquarters, Perkins thanked political opponents who expressed their condolences after the attack by a man who had been volunteering at an LGBT center.

But the FRC chief challenged them “to go a step further.”

He also asked organizations that condemned the violence to “call for an end to the reckless rhetoric that I believe” led to the shooting.

Perkins identified the Southern Poverty Law Center as responsible for the atmosphere, stating that it gave suspected gunman Floyd Lee Corkins “a license to shoot.”

When challenged by reporters, Perkins expanded on his remarks and claimed that the SPLC’s designation of the Family Research Council as a “certified hate group … marginalizes individuals and organizations letting people feel free to go and do bodily harm to innocent people who are simply working and representing folks from all across this country.”

The SPLC labeled the Family Research Council a “hate group” in 2010, attributing to the organization the characteristics of groups such as Aryan Nations 88, the National Socialist Movement and the American Aryan Reich.

A number of conservative media and political figures, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and WND editor Joseph Farah, condemned the designation and expressed solidarity with the Family Research Council.

In response, Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, said Perkins’ comments were “outrageous” and repeated the charge that the Family Research Council is a “hate group,” because it “has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people.”

Potok also claimed that the SPLC condemns political violence from whatever source.

Perkins also addressed the repeatedly reported connection between Chick-fil-A and the Family Research Council. Perkins pointed out that the suspect was carrying 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches as well as 50 rounds as ammunition, “which is not something you bring to a family picnic.”

Perkins noted that Chick-fil-A gave the organization $1,000 several years ago but had no other involvement. Homosexual activists have been attacking Chick-fil-A over the last few weeks because its owner, Dan Cathy, openly stated his support for traditional marriage.

Perkins also described the building’s operations manager, who also doubled with security duties in the front of the building, a “hero.” Leo Johnson was wounded in the attack and remains hospitalized.

In an earlier appearance on Fox News, Perkins described the scenario. Johnson was in the front of the building when a man entered with a gun and fired. There have been reports from authorities that the gunman aid he didn’t like FRC’s politics.

“Leo, despite being wounded, unarms the man and holds him,” Perkins said. “It was truly a heroic effort. The intentions of this man were clearly evil and [he] intended to do massive damage.”

He told the Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly he believed the attacker was “given a license to do that” by groups such as the SPLC, “because we defend the family and traditional Christianity.”

He confirmed, however, the attack he described as “terror” would not stop the group from continuing its ministry.

“It’s not going to work,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier and FBI officials praised Johnson for preventing more bloodshed.

An FBI affidavit from Special Agent Garrett Nabors said a surveillance tape showed the suspect talking with Johnson, then pulling a gun and shooting him.

After being wounded, Johnson moved toward Corkins, wrestled the firearm away from Corkins and subdued him, the report said.

The Family Research Council was founded in 1983 by a group of evangelical leaders that included Dr. James Dobson. Today, under Perkins, the group works to support conservative Christian social issues, including traditional marriage and pro-life causes.

Yesterday, even while the shooting suspect still was being questioned, one WND columnist said there’s enough evidence to begin demanding that pro-homosexual organizations such as the SPLC stand down from their campaign of labeling organizations as “hate groups” simply because they adhere to the biblical perspective of marriage.

Columnist Matt Barber, who is affiliated with the Liberty Counsel Action advocacy organization, told WND he had predicted such violence would be inflicted on Christian organizations if left-leaning groups such as the SPLC continue to spread labels such as “hate group.”

“I want to formally call on the SPLC to retract its reckless hate-group smear of Christian organizations like the Family Research Council,” he said. “This was intended to dehumanize Christian organizations and smear as hate the biblical view of sexual morality.

“I pointed this out months ago in a column I wrote for WND, titled ‘Liberal Violence Rising,‘ where I basically predicted this sort of thing.”

He said the danger is when “less-than-stable, left-wing extremists” share the view of the SPLC and say “a hate group is just like the KKK. I’m a hero if I go and take out a bunch of folks.”

WND Founder and Editor Joseph Farah also weighed in on the attack.

He cited the SPLC, as well as Planned Parenthood, for labeling FRC a hate group.

“Both of these organizations literally did their best to put a target on the back of FRC and other pro-family groups by labeling it as a ‘hate group’ (SPLC) and ‘terrorist or extremist organization’ (Planned Parenthood),” he wrote.

“Do they bear any responsibility for the climate of fear-mongering they helped create? Were they in any way responsible for encouraging this act of violence against a group that stands up for the institution of marriage and against the wanton taking of unborn life? Has either one of these groups expressed any remorse over the hysteria they purposely generated toward Family Research Council?”

He continued: “I can tell you this. Other groups and individuals on those lists – including me and my news organization – are taking this matter very seriously and beefing up security precautions in anticipation of more violence provoked by slanderous and vicious assaults of this kind.

“Yes, I made the same lists. So did WND as an organization. Now we are watching our backs, knowing that Planned Parenthood and SPLC have placed targets on them for every maniac who reads their reports and takes them seriously.”

Barber’s earlier column, from November 2011, said, “The SPLC’s dangerous and irresponsible disinformation campaign can embolden and give license to like-minded, though less stable, left-wing extremists, creating a climate of true hate. Such a climate is ripe for violence.”

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