Congresswoman calls gay death case a `hoax'

April 30, 2009 9:49:09 AM PDT
N.C. Republican Representative Virginia Foxx is under fire for calling a gay man's beating death a "hoax." Now Foxx says she should have chosen her words more carefully.

During a debate in the U.S. House about a hate crimes bill, Foxx said the Matthew Shepard case was a hoax. She went on to say Shepard wasn't killed in 1998 because he was gay but because the crime was a robbery.

Watch the statement that got Representative Foxx in trouble.

"We know that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay," Foxx said during debate. "The bill was named for him, the hate-crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."

The bill, which was approved by the House, would expand a federal hate crimes law to include acts motivated by sexual orientation.

Foxx later called her comments "a poor choice of words" and said her comments didn't convey what she meant to say.

"Mr. Shepard's death was nothing less than a tragedy, and those responsible for his death certainly deserved the punishment they received," Foxx said.

Gay rights supporters were critical of Foxx.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said Foxx's comments were "unreal, unbelievable."

Jim Neal, a one-time candidate for U.S. Senate from North Carolina and who is gay, said Foxx showed ignorance in her comments.

"I'm baffled that any kind of elected representative would make that kind of absurd and heartless comment about a young man whose life was taken away from him, and taken away because he was gay," Neal said.