Letter to Romenesko
From PATRICK CASEY, Reporter Andrew Gumbel was just flat wrong to assert in the lead to his recent Guardian story on the Charleston shootings that like Dylann Roof, starting a race war was Timothy McVeigh’s motivation for the Oklahoma City bombing.
I covered the OKC bombing for The Associated Press from the day it happened until transferring to the AP’s New York headquarters in mid 1999 and think it completely wrong to report that starting a race war was McVeigh’s motivation.
Common sense says the OKC attack did not involve race at all. McVeigh parked his truck bomb in front of a federal building that was filled with government workers and children of all colors. There was no racial intent in that. If McVeigh had wanted to start a race war, he would have bombed a more obvious target such as a historically black church or perhaps a dormitory at nearby black Langston University, not a racially neutral federal building./CONTINUES
The truth was that McVeigh was simply pissed off about Waco from the previous year and about whatever other anti-government rants he had at the time.
By the way, I did contact the Guardian to express my concerns with the story and they basically said that Gumbel is an authority on the bombing and thanks for writing.
ANDREW GUMBEL responds:
Casey’s right. Brain freeze on my part. I asked the Guardian to issue a correction, which they now have.
That said, Casey’s term “flat wrong” is oversimplifying things. It’s true Veigh’s primary motivation was not racial, as I wrote myself e.g. on p. 175 of my book on the bombing: Oklahoma City: What The Investigation Missed — And Why It Still Matters (HarperCollins, 2012). He hated the government for other reasons, the heavy-handedness of federal law enforcement at Waco and elsewhere being high on the list of grievances. But he was certainly inspired by the virulently racist writings of William Pierce (The Turner Diaries and Hunter), hung out and made common cause with white supremacists who did believe in a race war and hoped he’d help start one, and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.