- A.C. Thompsonjournalist with ProPublica, where he is a team leader for a project that documents hate crimes, bias incidents and racial extremists.
- Dean Obeidallahcolumnist for The Daily Beast and host of The Dean Obeidallah Show on SiriusXM radio.
As the nonexistent terrorist attack manufactured by Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway makes headlines, we look at an actual threat by an extremist in Bowling Green, Ohio. In 2012, an FBI raid uncovered a full arsenal of assault rifles, firearms, body armor and ammunition amassed by the suspect, who prosecutors later determined was planning to carry out mass killings. But the suspect is not a radical Muslim. He is white supremacist Richard Schmidt, who federal authorities say was planning targeted attacks on African Americans and Jews. Investigators found a list of names and addresses of people to be assassinated, including the leaders of NAACP chapters in Michigan and Ohio. Schmidt was sentenced to less than six years in prison after a federal judge said prosecutors had failed to adequately establish that he was a political terrorist. He is scheduled for release in February 2018. His case isn’t the only one involving terror threats by a white supremacist that received little coverage by mainstream media. On Monday, the trial of Christian minister Robert Doggart began in Tennessee federal district court. Undercover FBI agents allege that Doggart was plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims there, using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete. According to a federal investigation, Doggart saw himself as a religious “warrior” and wanted to kill Muslims to show his commitment to his Christian god. We speak with ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson, whose recent article is “When the Government Really Did Fear a Bowling Green Massacre—From a White Supremacist,” and with Dean Obeidallah, a columnist for The Daily Beast writing about the Doggart case.
AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with a closer look at the Bowling Green massacre. No, not the nonexistent terrorist attack manufactured by Donald Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, but an actual threat by an extremist in Bowling Green, Ohio. In 2012, an FBI raid uncovered a full arsenal of assault rifles, firearms, body armor and ammunition amassed by the suspect, who prosecutors later determined was planning to carry out mass killings. But the suspect is not a radical Muslim. He’s a white supremacist. His name is Richard Schmidt. Federal authorities say he was planning targeted attacks on African Americans and Jews. Investigators found a list of names and addresses of people to be assassinated, including the leaders of the NAACP chapters in Michigan and Ohio. Schmidt was sentenced to less than six years in prison after a federal judge said prosecutors had failed to adequately establish he was a political terrorist. He’s scheduled for release next year, February of 2018.
Schmidt’s case isn’t the only one involving terror threats by a white supremacist that received little coverage by mainstream media. On Monday, the trial of Christian minister Robert Doggart began in Tennessee federal district court. Undercover FBI agents allege Doggart was plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims there, using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and a machete. According to a federal investigation, he saw himself as a religious “warrior” and wanted to kill Muslims to show his commitment to his Christian god. His trial began on the same day the president falsely claimed during a speech to U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida that the media is intentionally covering up terrorist attacks.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, according to our next guests, the cases that the press is ignoring are not those involving Muslim terrorists, but those of white supremacists and white nationalists committing hate crimes and planning attacks on Muslims, Jews, African Americans and other marginalized communities. In Berkeley, California, A.C. Thompson is with us, a journalist with ProPublica, where he’s a team leader for a project that documents hate crimes, bias incidents and racial extremists. He highlighted Richard Schmid’ts case in his article, “When the Government Really Did Fear a Bowling Green Massacre—From a White Supremacist.” And joining us here in New York, Dean Obeidallah is a columnist for The Daily Beast and host of The Dean Obeidallah Show on SiriusXM radio, has written several times about Robert Doggart, most recently the article, “The Terror Trial We’re Really Ignoring.”
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! A.C. Thompson, let’s begin with you, the Bowling Green massacre that you’re writing about.
A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, so, this was an absolutely incredible incident back in 2012. Richard Schmidt was a guy who had spent years in the Army. He had lost his Army service—he had been a reservist after his active duty—when he got into a street altercation and shot three people. He killed one of them, a man named Anthony Torres, spent 13 years in prison. When he got out of prison, he was banned from owning firearms. Despite that, he amassed a massive, massive arsenal—assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, 40,000 rounds of ammunition, body armor.
The federal government found out about his arsenal basically by accident. They were investigating a counterfeit sports good ring. Schmidt had a business selling sports memorabilia, and they traced packages of counterfeit NFL jerseys to his business in Bowling Green. When they got there, they found something that was much more worrisome than counterfeit goods. They found this huge arsenal, owned by a felon who was not allowed to have guns.
But more worrisome than that, what they found was a membership card for the National Alliance, a white supremacist group linked to more than 200 murders, and a indication that he was associated with the Vinlanders, a neo-Nazi skinhead group that’s active in Ohio and around the country. They believe that he was plotting to kill a series of people in Ohio and Michigan, videotape the killings and then email them to his fellow white supremacists.
AMY GOODMAN: So, when you heard about the Bowling Green massacre that Kellyanne Conway was talking about, which in fact didn’t exist, that she repeated over and over again in different interviews, your thoughts?
A.C. THOMPSON: Look, people make mistakes in public speaking. I could make one right now. The important thing is that what’s worrisome about the Bush administration—or the Trump administration, excuse me, is that there seems to be this intense focus on one type of terrorism, one type of crime, and that’s Islamic radical terrorism, when, in fact, we have a whole wave of sort of domestic, home-grown terrorists—white supremacists, white nationalists, extreme religious fundamentalists—who have been committing crimes in this country for decades. Slate documented nearly 40 of these types of terrorist incidents since the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could make a much, much longer list. In Ohio, around the same time that Mr. Schmidt was going to trial, there was another incident, where a gentleman was angry about something he saw on Fox News, went to a mosque in West Toledo, Ohio, set it on fire, did $1.4 million damage to the mosque. And that case, again, is another one that’s gotten very little attention.
AMY GOODMAN: Dean Obeidallah, you looked at the list that President Trump put out of the terrorist attacks, all of them Muslim, none of them involving Muslim victims.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: Well, I mean, Donald Trump’s whole game plan during the primaries was to gin up fears of Muslims. That was one of the biggest things he used, in addition to ginning up fear of Latinos, Mexicans, immigrants, and demonizing women and disabled. So, we’re not stunned that, as president, he will continue that game plan of trying to divide our country by saying, “Look, Muslims are a danger. I’ve got this Muslim ban. And now I’m going to lie to you and say the only threat out there right now are Muslims.” And that’s not the reality. The irony, the same day he’s talking about that, the Robert Doggart trial began in federal court in Tennessee, a man who plotted, per the FBI investigation, to come to New York City to kill Muslims, in a community that’s primarily African-American Muslim community started in the 1990s up there. But that’s not the only one.
AMY GOODMAN: And that trial is going on now.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: That trial, right now it’s going on. We’re about day four of the trial, day five of the trial. But that’s not the only case. We have Glendon Scott Crawford, a man sentenced to 30 years to life in December. For what? For building a radioactive weapon of mass destruction to kill Muslims. The guy was a U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, another white supremacist. In September, three men called the Crusaders, as in Christian crusaders, plotting to kill Muslims, Somali refugees, in Kansas. Just this week, a man who was a self-professed Trump supporter had burned down a mosque in Orlando, got 30 years to life—it was a hate crime—because he had prior convictions. There are—there are people out there who want to kill me—I’m Muslim—and my community, simply because they’re afraid that Donald Trump does not talk about them at all. We don’t matter to him.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about Quebec?
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: In Quebec City, when you had that, you had a man who, again, self-professed—at least a supporter of Trump online, a man who had anti-immigrant views, walked into a mosque, opened fire. When he was done, six Muslims were killed, scores wounded. Donald Trump does not one tweet about that. He tweets more about Nordstrom’s than he tweets about these people being killed by a terrorist. Yet he will tweet about a man in Paris who takes a machete out and yells “Allahu Akbar,” and he tweets, “Radical Islam. France is afraid again.” Donald Trump—you know, I’ve been in the Middle East countless times. I’ve seen what Third World dictators do, how they gin up fear and try to create sectarian divides. Donald Trump is mimicking that. You just had, you know, Vince Warren on, making that great—the same point. I see it another way. It is bone-chilling. It’s scary. Our community feels alone right now. Thankfully, though, we have other people standing with us—that’s the one good thing—but not this administration. They stand against us.
AMY GOODMAN: Is the Justice Department tracking white supremacist attacks?
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: Well, I assume they’re charged to. I don’t know how they’re going to—they just had the new executive decision to reprioritize allocation of assets. I did have a meeting recently where I was at, and I can’t say the name of the person at DOJ. That was the rules. And I said, “You know, Loretta Lynch told us that she stands with the Muslim community. Do you stand with us?” And he said—he’s a high-ranking political appointee by Trump—he goes, “We don’t stand with anyone. We stand with the law.”
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: And in the context of my question, that was bone-chilling.
AMY GOODMAN: Dean Obeidallah and A.C. Thompson, I thank you for being with us. We’re going to continue this conversation and post it online at democracynow.org.