EXCLUSIVE: Stack's Daughter Retracts 'Hero' Statement

Suicide pilot attacker's daughter tells "GMA" "he was not a hero."

February 19, 2010, 2:08 PM

Feb. 22, 2010 — -- The daughter of the man who carried out a suicide plane attack against the IRS in Texas said today she considered her father a hero for standing up to "the system," although she later back away from that statement.

"His last actions, the suicide, the catastrophe that caused injuries and death, that was wrong," Samantha Bell, Stack's daughter from his first marriage, told "Good Morning America" in a morning television exclusive telephone interview that aired today. "But if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished. But I do not agree with his last action with what he did. But I do agree about the government."

When "Good Morning America" asked if she considered her father a "hero," Bell, 38, said, "Yes, because now maybe people will listen." Bell later called "Good Morning America" to retract her statement and say unequivocally that her father was "not a hero."

Rather, she said the only hero involved in the attack was its victim, Vietnam veteran Vernon Hunter, the only person besides Stack killed in the attack.

"I don't want to hurt anybody," Bell said. "We are mourning for Vernon Hunter."

"His last actions, the suicide, the catastrophe that caused injuries and death, that was wrong," Bell said in the aired interview. "But if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished. But I do not agree with his last action with what he did. But I do agree about the government."

Before crashing a small airplane into Internal Revenue Services offices in Austin, Texas, last week, Stack posted a lengthy, rambling suicide note online that railed against the government, the IRS and taxes specifically as part of a "totalitarian regime."

Ken Hunter, son of Vernon Hunter, who was killed in the attack, refuted Bell's earlier statement, saying Stack's not the hero in this situation, but his father is.

"How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, gets into his plane ... and drives it into the building to kill people?" Hunter told "Good Morning America." "My dad Vernon did two tours of duty in Vietnam. My dad's a hero."

Bell said there were "zero signs" that her father harbored such strong anti-government sentiments.

"He may have been somewhat frustrated, but he was a very quiet man," she said. "The father I knew was a loving, caring, devoted man who cherished every moment with me and my three children, his grandchildren. ... This man who did this was not my father.

"He must've kept this bottled up all these years."

Vernon Hunter was also a grandfather and to Vernon's son, Stack's actions will not change anything.

"The only difference he made was he took away from my family and murdered a 20-year U.S. Army vet," Ken Hunter said.

To Hunter's family, Bell offered her "deepest condolences."

"I lost my father, but I feel guilty to be mourning my father because I know other people have been affected and a wonderful man has died because of my father's actions. And I need to pay my respects and mourn for the man and his family," she said.

Joe Stack's Daughter: Torched Home Was 'Part of Government'

Before attacking the IRS offices, Stack burned down his wife's home. While many debated Stack's motives for the arson, Bell said it was likely all part of his anti-government rampage.

"As we pay taxes, we pay taxes on our home as well, and my belief is that the house was part of the government," she said. "He wanted to get rid of what was left."

Bell, who lives in Norway and criticized the American system as "very faulty," said that she hopes "everything" will change in light of her father's attack.

"But Rome was not built in one day. But one small step at a time. One step at a time," she said.

Bell is hardly the first to praise her father's anti-government stance. Within hours of the attack, message boards across the Internet lit up in support of Stack's cause, if not the deadly act itself.

The suicide note got around 20 million hits online before it was taken down at the FBI's request, according to Alex Melen, president and founder of T35, the network service provider for the Web site on which the note was posted.

Melen, 25, said within minutes of taking the note down, the company was "bombarded" with around 3,000 e-mails demanding Stack's words be reposted. Some of the e-mails contained threats against Melen.

"What's funny is most people were pretty much praising him," Melen told ABC News last week.

Several pro-Stack Facebook groups popped in the hours after the attack, garnering hundreds of members and postings on Internet message boards from mainstream to extremist, sites, proclaiming Stack a hero and patriot.

The positive view of Stack's personal vendetta against the government online is a reflection of what experts are calling an "explosive" growth in the anti-tax, anti-government movement.

"Extremist groups are already aligning behind [Joe Stack], beginning to talk about him as a hero," said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies American militia and hate groups. "The growth of those groups has been astounding."

Bob Schulz, founder of the anti-tax group We the People Foundation, said that while he only supports nonviolent protest, he can understand Stack's motives and said it reflects a movement unlike any he's ever seen.

"There's a huge patriot movement," Schulz told ABC News Friday. "I've been doing this kind of work for 30 years. Never have I seen the likes of what's going on now. It's delightful."

Joe Stack's Daughter: Nonviolence Would Have Been Better

Schulz compared Stack's attack to Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives, saying despite the desperation, any violent act harms the movement.

"Anybody that commits a violent act against the government sets things back," Schulz said. "The government uses that as more reason to further clamp down. ... Timothy McVeigh set things back. Joe Stack set things back."

Bell seemed to agree.

"If [Stack] had actually just stood up to the government, [using] freedom of speech and did all he could besides doing what he did -- flying his airplane into a building and burning his house -- I think that would've been more effective," she said. "He stood up to the system. But at the same time, he loved his family. We are at a great loss."

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