Anti-government propaganda, military deployment and the F.B.I. raid in Waco, Texas, radicalized Timothy McVeigh and led to the Oklahoma City attack. This is the second episode of a five-part series produced in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate. Click here for the Extremism in America series

In partnership with The WNET Group

Extremism in America: The Oklahoma City Bombing

Series Senior Producer and Writer: Scott Michels
Series Supervising Editor: Brian Kamerzel

A bomb went off at a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds. The police soon arrested Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, along with an accomplice, for carrying out the attack. McVeigh said the bombing was to avenge the F.B.I.’s siege on the compound of a religious sect in Waco, Texas, in 1993.

The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. But the movement they belonged to has not disappeared, a counterterrorism expert told us: “They bide their time.”

“Tim McVeigh is the epitome of a lone wolf,” Tom O’Connor, a former F. B.I. agent, told Retro Report. “But even a lone wolf still has to be part of something that gets them to that point.”

The Oklahoma City bombing fueled government action against right-wing militia groups. But while membership in organized groups decreased, some members went underground.

“It wasn’t until 1995 that the message of domestic terrorism really came home in this country, unquestionably,” said Bill Morlin, an investigative journalist who covered neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups. “It was after the Oklahoma City bombing that the Justice Department woke up.”

This is the second episode of a five-part series produced in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate, on the roots and rise of hate in America and across the globe. Leadership support for Exploring Hate is provided by the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Antisemitism. To learn more about Exploring Hate and for a full list of funders, visit pbs.org/exploringhate.

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