Media figures politicize Giffords shooting

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

Several media figures jumped at the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, as a way to further whatever political agenda they have.

Though the motive of accused shooter Jared Lee Loughner has not yet been determined, left wing bloggers are calling this a political assassination inspired by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement. Also, media figures and reporters immediately blamed Palin and the Tea Party movement, many before the name of the suspected shooter had even been released.

Left wing blog Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas tweeted, “If Palin’s crosshair effort was excusable, why has her PAC scrubbed her site of that page?,” trying to tie Loughner to Palin and the Tea Party movement. Moulitsas also tweeted, “How dare people ‘politicize’ a political assassination!”

Also, referencing Palin’s map of “targets” of congressional seats held by vulnerable Democrats during the 2010 midterm elections, on which Palin marks Giffords’ district in Arizona as one of them, Moulitsas tweeted, “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.”

Moulitsas removed a post from his site shortly after the shooting that was published Thursday in which a blogger attacked Giffords from the left for being too conservative a Democrat. Though the post, titled “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!,” has been removed, Google caches of it show that the blogger was upset at Giffords for voting against Nancy Pelosi for House minority leader and infuriated at Giffords for being too conservative.

At Slate magazine, former Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel immediately started tying Loughner’s actions into the Tea Party movement, before Loughner’s name was even released, and, via Twitter and his blog, Weigel railed against the Tea Party movement for supporting violence. Weigel also compared the shooting and its potential long term ramifications to the political effects after of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“If you are a Republican politician, and you allow yourself a callow thought today, you flash back to 1995 and the Oklahoma City bombing,” Weigel wrote. “It occurred four months after Republicans took over Congress, and Republicans thought they heard President Clinton turning the tragedy back onto them in his remarks at the memorial service.”

Weigel then wrote that, “Like it or not, this is what our national conversation will now turn back to.”

That’s something Howard Fineman at The Huffington Post furthered, adding that President Barack Obama should learn from how President Bill Clinton handled the aftermath of the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.

“Clinton’s political resurrection began four days later [after the bombing — Newt Gingrich had swept into Congress with a new Republican majority in the House as result of the previous midterm election]. It had nothing to do with McVeigh, a former soldier who had taken a murderous turn from anti-authoritarianism to racist paranoia,” Fineman wrote. “The president was careful, as well he should have been, to avoid suggesting any link between his political foes and the event. Rather, in a short but eloquent address — now regarded as a classic of modern presidential rhetoric — he recalled his own roots in nearby Arkansas, invoked God and the Bible, and called not only for justice but also for tolerance, forbearance and love.”

Politico’s Ben Smith attacked conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer’s rip on liberal media for their coverage of the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, tweeting: “Krauthammer wrote about the analyzing lone gunmen, nuts by definition, in a very different context in ’09.”*

At the Washington Post, Sandhya Somashekhar jumped to conclusions writing that left wingers are blaming Tea Partiers for the violence.

“Liberals on Saturday blamed the tea party movement’s sometimes militant rhetoric — for example, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s advice to her supporters via Twitter, ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD,’ or Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) advocating “second-amendment remedies” for some of the nation’s problems,” Somashekhar wrote.

Matt Yglesias of left wing political advocacy group ThinkProgress tweeted about an event Gifffords’ opponent, Jesse Kelley, held in the last election. He linked to a photo of a June 2010 advertisement for a Kelly campaign event for voters to shoot a “fully automatic M16” with the candidate.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times argued that the shooting was political as well, tying it to the Tea Party movement.

“We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist,” Krugman wrote.” (Giffords own father said in an interview that  ‘the whole Tea Party’ was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous ‘crosshairs list.”

Even CNN’s new Piers Morgan, who’s taking over Larry King’s old time slot, tweeted that Palin’s map will “have huge political ramifications” in the aftermath of the shooting.

CBS News reported that, though it’s still unsure what the motives of Loughner were, “critics of Sarah Palin have already drawn a link between the shooting and the fact that the former Alaska governor put Giffords on a ‘target list’ of lawmakers Palin wanted to see unseated in the midterm elections.”

Keith Olbermann blamed Palin, newly elected Florida Republican Congressman Allen West, Senate candidate Sharron Angle, Giffords’s opponent Jesse Kelly, Fox News personalities Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, and the Tea Party movement as a whole for the shooting in his Special Comment on Saturday night.

But, some media figures warned against jumping on that bandwagon — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow advised against political speculation.

“There is nothing to be gained from speculating on the motives and affiliations of AZ shooter w/o facts,” Maddow tweeted.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer also advised against jumping to conclusions, adding that Loughner could be a “lunatic” from either side.

“We don’t know if he’s from the lunatic left or the lunatic right,” Blitzer said. “We just see his crazy words.”

*UPDATE: In an e-mail to TheDC, the Politico’s Ben Smith claims his tweet was not intended as an attack on Krauthammer. “I certainly didn’t mean that as an attack on Krauthammer, whom I obviously…admire,” he wrote, providing a link to a profile piece he did on the Washington Post columnist. “I’d just been thinking about the issue — when do you blame the nutjob, when do care what the nutjob’s politics are — and recalled that as a pretty strong column on the subject.”