As the U.S. House debated a hate crimes bill today, Rep. Virginia Foxx today called the case for which it's named "a hoax."
The House was poised to vote on the so-called Matthew Shepard bill, named for a 21-year-old gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1998. Supporters say he was the victim of a hate crime perpetrated because he was gay.
"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," Foxx, a Banner Elk Republican, said on the House floor. "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."
Foxx's comments -- and reaction to them --- spread across the Internet.
"She should be ashamed," Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia told a reporter. "That is unreal, unbelievable. The law enforcement people and almost every reasonable person I know believes he was murdered because he was gay."
A spokesman later said Foxx used "a poor choice of words."
Shepard was killed after meeting two men in a Laramie, Wyoming bar. The two were later convicted. Some witnesses testified that Shepard was targeted because he was gay.
"The facts over the last decade ... more than speak for themselves," said Matt Comer, an organizer with Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality. "Now she is trying to go back rewrite history, dishonor the life of Matthew Shepard. We cannot forget about the hate that is involved in crimes like this."