RICHMOND — The father of the Roanoke TV reporter fatally shot during a live broadcast last summer apologized Thursday for harsh Facebook messages that prompted a pro-gun legislator from southwest Virginia to call law enforcement authorities.
“In my grief over the murder of my daughter and my anger over a political system that allows incidents like that to continue, I spoke regrettably,” Andy Parker said in a message issued by a gun-control group that has featured him in a $2.2 million TV ad campaign. “I apologize for my words, but make no mistake, I will continue to seek justice and change as a father in memory of my daughter.”
The apology stemmed from a message sent to Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (R-Franklin). Parker has become increasingly critical of the lawmaker’s stance on guns and wrote Tuesday night, “I’m going to be your worst nightmare you little bastard.”
Parker became a prominent advocate for gun control after former TV station employee Vester Lee Flanagan II fatally shot his daughter, WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, and seriously wounded Vicki Gardner, 62, in August. He stars in TV campaigns running in Northern Virginia and Richmond for two state Senate candidates. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group backed by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), is bankrolling the ads.
Stanley, who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, said he took the message as a threat against him or his family. He said he contacted Capitol Police and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and picked up applications for concealed handgun permits for himself and his wife because of the message.
Parker has been making caustic comments about pro-gun politicians on their Facebook pages and in private messages sent through Facebook. On Wednesday, Parker stood by his comments but said the only intended threat was political.
He sent another message to Stanley after learning of Stanley’s complaints to police. “Thank you again for providing me another opportunity to call you out in the press because I ‘frightened’ you,” Parker wrote. “You’re the only person I know that would try to turn me into a threatening bad guy. I love it.”
Late Wednesday, Stanley’s staff found that Parker also had posted something on the senator’s Facebook page Tuesday, the night of the original message.
“YOU’RE FINEST MOMENT, YOU SORRY LITTLE COWARD,” he posted. “YOU DIDN’T EVEN HAVE THE DECENCY TO REACH OUT AND OFFER A LAME CONDOLENCE AFTER MY DAUGHTER Alison Bailey WAS MURDERED IN YOUR DISTRICT. WHEN YOU SEE ME AGAIN, YOU BEST WALK THE OTHER WAY LEST I BEAT YOUR LITTLE ASS WITH MY BARE HANDS.”
On Thursday, Everytown issued the apology. The group showed no signs of backing away from Parker, who was still prominently featured on the Everytown Web site. The TV ads featuring Parker continued to air.
Also Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) mocked Stanley’s reaction on a radio interview, saying that the senator was “cowering today in his home” and that he needed to “man up.” McAuliffe also said that “Andy Parker needs to be a little smarter about what he says.”
“Bill Stanley knew that Andy Parker had no interest in physically harming him,” McAuliffe said on WRVA’s “Ask the Governor” show. “This is a political stunt by Bill Stanley. . . . Come on, Bill. You’re tougher than that. Man up.”
Stanley said he was offended by McAuliffe’s comments, calling them “flippant.”
“It’s making light of a very serious situation, and it’s creating more antagonism rather than healing,” Stanley said.
In the Capitol, Stanley has been a staunch supporter of gun rights. In 2011, he received a tongue-in-cheek award from a Roanoke newspaper columnist: “Best Gun Threat By a Public Official.”
Stanley said that stemmed from a conversation he had with a reporter, who was talking about rooting through the trash cans at his rental home and looking in the windows to make sure Stanley really lived in the Senate district.
The newspaper quoted him as saying that no one should snoop around his house “unless they want to get a face full of my Glock.”
Stanley said he had been slightly misquoted — he said it was “snoot full of my Glock” — but in any case, he said the comment was clearly meant as a joke.
“I’ve never threatened anybody in my life,” he said.