Reports that the married couple who shot and killed two police officers, a bystander and themselves in Las Vegas this week were motivated by right-wing extremism have highlighted one of the more troubling trends in even the “mainstream” Right — denial that violent right-wing extremism even exists.
As Brian mentioned earlier today, a conservative pundit’s claim on the same day as the shooting that far-right violence is a “complete and total bogeyman” echoes the objections the attacks that many right-wing groups lobbed at a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on domestic extremism. Right-wing groups and their allies in Congress created a fuss about the report, claiming that it was an attack on conservatives, Christians and veterans.
The American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the American Center for Law and Justice piled on. Republicans in Congress demanded an investigation into how the report had come to pass. Spotting a good fundraising opportunity, Liberty Counsel even printed out “Proud to be a Right-Wing Extremist” cards to distribute to its members.
Eventually, the pressure led DHS to retract the report and later to cut back the team that produced it. Two years later, speaking publicly for the first time, the analyst who wrote the report — who happened to be a conservative Republican Mormon — said that the attacks on his unit’s work had undermined law enforcement’s ability to address the “growing and dangerous problem” of violent right-wing extremism.
What happened at DHS as a result of the criticism?
My team was dissolved. All training courses and briefings presentations were stopped. DHS leaders made it increasingly difficult to release another report on this topic.
Why would DHS leaders dissolve your team and stop these analytic activities?
The subject had become too politically charged. As a result, DHS leaders adopted a risk adverse approach toward this issue. Perhaps they thought it was a matter of organizational preservation.
Do you think the dissolution of your unit that you discuss has negatively affected State and local law enforcement?
Certainly. There is one less agency to assist state and local law enforcement with this growing and dangerous problem at a time of heightened activity.
Yet, as recently as last year, Religous Right groups were still using their bogus criticism of the report as a talking point against the Obama administration.