On January 8, a deranged gunman named Jared Loughner tried to kill Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and murdered half a dozen bystanders, including a federal judge. Readers may recall that soon afterwards, Fox News started reporting that the authorities had a “strong suspicion” that Mr. Loughner was “possibly linked” to American Renaissance, which they were stupidly describing as “anti-government” and “anti-Semitic.” The result was enormous media interest in AR, and a flood of hate mail (see “Jared Loughner and Jared Taylor: When Sloppy Police Work Meets Irresponsible Media“).
There were, of course, no links. The source of this rumor was an internal memo leaked from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC). Three days after the shootings, the head of ACTIC, David Denlinger, was telling the media that the memo “overstated the link” between Mr. Loughner and AR, and the storm died down.
I spoke to Major Denlinger by phone several times to try to find out why ACTIC got it all wrong, but he never had an explanation. I also told him American Renaissance wanted to clear its name of any hint of an association with Mr. Loughner, and that I would like him to write a brief letter saying that ACTIC had no evidence of a “link” and that its characterization of AR as “anti-government” and “anti-Semitic” was wrong.
Major Denlinger sounded sympathetic. He suggested that I write his boss, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Stanhope of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, explaining the damage the false report had done to our organization and asking for a letter of clarification. I wrote Colonel Stanhope on January 29 and waited for an answer. Weeks later I still had no answer so I called and left a message.
Col. Stanhope finally called back on March 4. He admitted that ACTIC had no evidence of a link of any kind between Mr. Loughner and AR. I asked why anyone said there was but he refused to explain. He also said he would not write a letter. I asked why not. He said his lawyers had advised against it. Again, I asked why not. He said an “exoneration” in our case would set a precedent for “exonerating” every suspect that was not pursued.
I said he didn’t have to “exonerate” us for anything. If he wanted to, he could write a letter saying that “at this time” he had no evidence of a link, leaving open the possibility that evidence could turn up later.
Col. Stanhope said Major Denlinger had already admitted that the AR-Loughner link had been “overstated,” and that that should be enough. I said it wasn’t enough. An “overstated” link suggests a link, whereas there was no link at all. He said he didn’t understand the statement that way. I told him he would be the only person who was unable to understand it.
He again said he could not write a letter, and asked if I couldn’t understand his position. I said no, I couldn’t, and that he certainly could write a letter. I said the lawyers work for him, not the other way around, and that no one was stopping him. I told him ACTIC had made a mistake and wasn’t man enough to admit it. He said that was my interpretation. I said that would be anyone’s interpretation.
I again asked if he would write a letter and again he refused. I asked him if he had ever heard the expression “public servant,” and hung up the phone. I forgot to ask Col. Stanhope where the goofy stuff about “anti-government” and “anti-Semitic” came from, but I don’t doubt he would have said his lawyers had forbidden him to speak.
So it’s official: there was no evidence of a Loughner/AR link. Or at least it’s official enough for a phone call but not official enough for a letter.