When the conservative Florida Family Association helped persuade home improvement chain Lowe's to drop ads in the TLC show All-American Muslim, the Tampa-based advocacy group saw pushback from a Muslim-centered civil rights group, a California state senator and actor Kal Penn.
But on Monday an FFA official said a computer hacker who claimed association with the infamous hacker group Anonymous forced them to shut down their website, amid concerns sensitive data could be stolen.
David Caton, executive director of the Florida Family Association, said his group shut down its website Monday night, leaving a simple text message for anyone visiting FloridaFamily.org protesting that the attack is "destroying our free speech."
Caton said the hackers worked through 15 levels of security to achieve a small breach into their online systems, prompting their webmaster to shut down the site to avoid further incursion.
Since news broke nationally that Lowe's pulled its advertising from the program, Caton has been inundated with media attention, providing interviews for NPR, CNN, ABC News and Fox stations throughout Monday.
But the executive director said he has also gotten a death threat, and the group received an anonymous email about 12:30 p.m. Monday alerting them their site would be attacked.
"In a country that supposedly embraces free speech, those that oppose our position have no qualms about destroying our free speech," said Caton. "This is the worst I've seen any group respond."
A Twitter user with the handle @ihazcAnNONz posted messages Monday taunting the Florida Family Association, claiming to have downloaded information from their servers.
For weeks, the Florida Family Association has asked people to send emails to sponsors of the TLC show, asking companies to drop their commercials from the show.
The Florida Family Association's email alerts denounce the program as "propaganda" that "hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties"; the show focuses on five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich.
But the decision by Lowe's drew criticism from rap impresario Russell Simmons, Harold and Kumar film star Kal Penn and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, among others.
"The show is about what it's like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face," California state Sen. Ted Lieu told the Associated Press. "And that kind of discrimination is exactly what's happening here at Lowe's."
Liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org created a petition asking advertisers to stay with the show and Lieu called for a boycott of Lowe's, even after the company apologized for the controversy on its Facebook page.