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Census Worker's Death Was Suicide, Not Right-Wing Political Violence

3:09 PM, Nov 24, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Another episode of right-wing violence that wasn't, kind of like the entire month of August's town halls:

A U.S. Census worker found dead in a secluded Clay County cemetery killed himself but tried to make the death look like a homicide, authorities have concluded.

Bill Sparkman, 51, of London, might have tried to cover the manner of his death to preserve payments under life-insurance polices that he had taken out. The policies wouldn't pay off if Sparkman committed suicide, state police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski said.

"We believe it was an intentional act on his part to take his own life," said Rudzinski, who helped lead the investigation.

At the time of the census worker's death, liberal commentators and bloggers scrambled all over themselves to blame Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck and other right-leaning figures for inciting violence with their "anti-government" sentiment.

Sparkman's nude body was found Sept. 12 by people visiting the cemetery. There was a rope around his neck tied to a tree, and he had what appeared to be the word "fed" written on his chest in black marker.

His census identification card was taped to his head.

The bizarre details of the death caused a firestorm of media coverage and widespread speculation on the Internet, including that someone angry at the federal government attacked Sparkman as he went door to door, gathering census information.

Michelle Malkin highlights the subtle smear art that made the rounds on the left.

Clarence Page on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", Nov. 5, 2009: "You know, maybe perhaps the research that I do - I worry about the Bill Sparkmans, the census worker that was hanged and - found hanged in Kentucky with the word fed on his body. Or, you know - or Stephen Johns, the guy that was killed at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. a few months ago that - I hope those type of incidents, not only interracial marriages increase, but I hope those type of violence, violent incidents decrease."

Andrew Sullivan, Sept. 26, 2009: "No Suicide: That's the one thing we know for certain now in the case of the Kentucky lynching...But the most worrying possibility - that this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts - remains real."

NPR's Neal Conan of "Talk of the Nation"used the Sparkman story as a jumping-off point for a segment entitled "A History of Mistrust" about the census on Sept. 29.

The opening to MSNBC's Ed Schultz show Sept. 28, 2009:

It didn't sound real good. My wife and I were traveling on the East Coast this weekend, in the car for three hours. We haven`t done that for a while.

Let me tell you, right-wing rhetoric in this country has reached a boiling point. Oh, the government`s the enemy. Every kind of government, local, regional, state...

Republicans have always tried to make the government the bogeyman. No matter what the subject, it`s the government's fault. But this is out of control. The fever pitch we`re experiencing in this country right now, I think has got a lot of people nervous.

A census worker, somebody doing a part-time job for the government, for America -- we`ve had the census in this country for 210 years. This man`s name was Bill Sparkman. He was found dead in Kentucky.

Most of his clothes had been stripped off and his census identification tag, it was Duct Taped to his body, and the word "Fed` had been written across his chest. Investigators don`t know who killed Mr. Sparkman and what the motive was. They still aren`t certain it was a homicide.

A lot of things playing into this right now. But we do know that census workers are afraid to go to work right now.

Brian Levin, on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Sept. 25, 2009:

"But, at this point, this was such a symbolic and personal anger, that I'm -- I'm led to lean towards someone who has severe anti-government feelings, perhaps someone who is seeking revenge. Maybe they were audited or had some problem with some kind of government official.

COOPER: OK. To display the victim in this way seems, I mean, telling, one way or another. I mean, there's clearly something to that."