Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx has written a letter of apology to the mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming man whose name is on federal legislation adding sexual orientation to hate-crimes laws. During recent debate on the bill, Foxx, who represents North Carolina's 5th District, called attempts to label Shepard's 1998 murder a hate crime "a hoax." She said that he was killed during a robbery and not because he was gay. Shepard, 21, was robbed, beaten and left to die on a fence near Laramie, Wyo., in 1998. Two men pleaded guilty to killing him and testified that they singled him out because he was gay. Foxx's remarks caused an uproar, and she later issued a statement saying that her use of "hoax" was "a poor choice of words." Neither Foxx nor anyone in her office would return repeated calls and e-mails from the Winston-Salem Journal for comment.
In an interview with the television station WXII, Foxx said she was "speaking off the cuff," and that she was sorry she used the wrong word. The Matthew Shepard Act passed the House 249-175. Foxx voted against the bill. She told WXII that she sent a handwritten note to Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's mother, saying that "if I said anything that offended her, I certainly apologize for it and know that she's hurting, and I would never do anything to add to that."(WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 5/06/09).