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Tuesday on TV: PBS relives horrific ‘American Experiemce’ of Oklahoma City bombing

First Published      Last Updated Jan 31 2017 12:27 pm

The always impressive "American Experience" (7 p.m., PBS/Ch. 7) looks back at the worst case of domestic terrorism in our nation's history — the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

More than two decades later, it's still shattering to recall. And it's still hard for Americans — including those in government and law enforcement — to wrap their heads around.

The documentary makes it clear that bomber Timothy McVeigh was part of the white supremacist movement.

"Oklahoma City was the wake-up moment for American law enforcement," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow of the Southern Poverty Law Center who's interviewed in the two-hour documentary. (He's a former USA Today reporter who covered the siege at Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing and the Timothy McVeigh trial.)

While there were "a few sort of prescient lawmen [and] law women who thought about these things before ... it's worth remembering" that for three days after the bombing "the American people and all the so-called experts out there on national television were saying this is an attack by Muslims. It has all the earmarks of a jihadist attack and so on."

Potok said it's also "worth remembering that throughout the '90s the FBI absolutely refused to classify the murders of abortion providers and their guards and women who worked at clinics as terrorism, which is absolutely clearly was if you look at the FBI's own definition of terrorism."

And under the George W. Bush administration "top officials of the FBI testified to Congress that the greatest domestic terrorism threat facing the United States was from so called eco-terrorists. And while those groups "never killed anyone, not for want of trying" in Oklahoma City "we're looking at a movement that in one fell swoop murdered 168 men women and children, including 19 tiny children."

It's horrifying, but extremely well done and very much worth watching.

Elsewhere on TV

• "NCIS" (7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2): The murder of a petty officer prompts NCIS to once again work with "The Sherlocks," a privately funded investigative team that includes Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. (Robert Wagner).

• "The Middle" (7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Frankie learns her child-bearing years are over; Sean Donahue and Sue's roommate hit it off.

• "New Girl" (7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): Nick freaks out when Reagan lands him a book signing; Winston tells Schmidt and Cece that he's proposing to Aly.

• "The Flash" (7 p.m., CW/Ch. 30): Barry and the team work together to bring down a criminal meta-human who is methodically killing people by causing them to decompose at an accelerated rate.

• "The Haves and Have Nots" (7 p.m., OWN): Veronica confronts Erica.

• "American Housewife" (7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): The Ottos' house is put up for sale, and Katie is the only one happy about leaving Westport.

• "The Mick" (7:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): Chip must choose between snitching on his teammates or taking the fall for them.

• "Fresh Off the Boat" (8 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Marvin and Honey take Eddie, Emery and Evan to visit a retirement home.

• "Bones" (8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): The team investigates when the dismembered body of a successful golfer-turned-lumberjack is found.

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