The Magazine

The Media’s Double Standard

Some hate crimes are less hateful than others.

Aug 19, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 46 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity. 

Leo Johnson at the entrance to the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

Leo Johnson at the entrance to the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

the weekly standard / isabel kret

But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable. 

After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives. 

Still, Johnson has been living with the consequences of that day ever since. “I had to have surgery right away to clear all of that shattered bone and remove the bullet fragments. Maybe about a week or so after that I developed blood clots in my right lung—five blood clots. So I had to go back in the hospital. I got put on blood-thinner so I was in about seven days. After a couple months of therapy there was about four inches of bone that didn’t grow back so I had to have another surgery to remove about four inches of bone from my pelvis and have it put into my arm,” he said. “This whole ordeal, it was tough on my family. My mom is 73 and she has health issues. My grandma is 103—she just turned 103. And I’m their primary caretaker, so it’s been hard for me to get back on my feet and also take care of them so that they’re okay.”

In spite of the trauma, Johnson seems remarkably at peace and said he’s never even lost sleep over what happened. “Other than getting shot, obviously, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think God put me in that position to be there. Had [Corkins] not gained entrance here, he would’ve gone somewhere else and maybe carried out his plan,” said Johnson, noting that the Family Research Council was just one of a number of targets Corkins selected. “God put me there. He protected me. He gave me the strength to do what I needed to do.” 

There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists. 

The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of  

the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.” 

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