Washington (CNN) – On the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, the man who was the governor of Oklahoma at that time said there is a big difference between violent extremists and more moderate citizens speaking out about their criticisms of Washington.
“The reality is we have had, unfortunately, a lot of violent acts by extreme individuals and groups,” Frank Keating, a Republican, said Monday on CNN’s John King, USA, “but I think to have a group of individuals – largely reasonably well-educated, upscale economically – who have had enough of taxes and are protesting and are angry – that’s really quintessentially America. I mean that’s something from the Boston tea party forward.
“As long as you say, ‘I’m angry, but I’m not violent,’ that’s okay. If you’re angry and you’re violent, then you’re a problem, law enforcement is interested in you and that is not American.”
Keating put Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for his role in the crime, in a long line of violent, anti-government extremists including John Hinckley, Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth, all of whom Keating called “isolated, dangerous individuals.”
Keating, a former U.S. attorney, said that in blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, McVeigh had crossed the line between voicing frustration with government and violence. And Keating suggested that McVeigh’s actions were not logical.
“He hated the ATF. He didn’t touch an ATF agent,” Keating told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “He hated the FBI. The FBI wasn’t even in this building. He killed 19 babies. He killed people standing in line to get their Social Security checks. He killed people who had nothing to do with his beef.”
Keating added that McVeigh committed “an evil, wicked, outrageous act.”
The former Republican governor said the he thought proper civic education was the way to prevent violent extremism while still encouraging political engagement and debate.
“What’s important is for schools to teach civic responsibility – sharing, debate, but not crossing the line,” Keating also told King.