Mixed reaction to Sheriff Dupnik’s comments about Arizona as ‘a mecca for prejudice’

Laura Donovan Contributor
Font Size:

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s comments about the root cause of Saturday’s shooting of Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords have elicited mixed reactions in the press.

During a press conference Saturday evening at the University Medical Center, Dupnik spoke of an “atmosphere of hatred and bigotry” and condemned the state of Arizona for being “a mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Soon after the event ended, a Facebook group called “Clarence Dupnik is my Hero” sprung up. The group has already acquired more than 5,000 members. Almost immediately, bloggers across the spectrum reacted. On Saturday night, a Daily Kos blogger wrote a post titled, “Clarence Dupnik: Pima country Sheriff & American Hero.” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann called Dupnik’s comments “extraordinary.”

Dupnik went on to seemingly point fingers at former senate candidate Sharron Angle and former Alaska gov. Sarah Palin in a Fox News interview that aired Sunday.

“When you have people like Sharron Angle … making outrageous statements such as ‘We may need to resort to taking the second amendment into, into, into certain cases’ and for people like Sarah Palin to say, ‘Uh, we have people like Gabby Giffords in our crosshairs …’ I think those statements are totally irresponsible and they’re not without consequences and I think we may be seeing the fruit of it here.”

In a “Face the Nation” interview that aired Sunday, Ariz. Sen. Jon Kyl responded to Dupnik’s claims  by saying that everyone should be careful before jumping to conclusions about Loughner’s motivation.

“First, I, I didn’t really think that that had any part in a law enforcement briefing last night, it was speculation,” Kyl said. “I don’t think we should rush to speculate. I thought that the report that we just saw from Tucson seems to have it about right. We don’t really know what motivated this young person except to know that he was very mentally unstable as was pointed out in the piece.”

Kyl said that to attribute a coherent political ideology to the gunman would be “giving him too much credit.”

“We just have to acknowledge there are some mentally unstable people in this country, who knows what motivates them to do what they do?” Kyl asked.

Tucson talk show radio host Jon Justice expressed disgust with Dupnik’s press conference comments.

“Dupnik took his moment in the spotlight to drive a political wedge into the event,” Justice wrote in an e-mail to the Tucson Weekly. “They were reckless and dangerous statements made by someone who should have known better. He should have been using his time to help bring the community together. Instead his statements made Tucson appear to be a city full hate, bigotry and vitriol.”

During a Fox News interview with Megyn Kelly that aired Sunday, Dupnik expressed a belief that times have changed since the days of his youth and perhaps that explains why the country can have such a negative political atmosphere.

“I grew up in a country that was totally different than a country we have today,” Dupnick said. “We see one party trying to block the attempts of another party to make this a better country.”

Kelly refuted that bad people exist now just as they did a long time ago.

“You refer to a time gone by. There were mad men then, there are mad men now, and it just … Is it really the place of a sheriff to stir the pot on either side of the political aisle?” Megyn Kelly asked.

“I guess that’s for the listeners to decide,” Dupnik said.

In April 2010, Dupnik refused to enforce Arizona’s immigration bill, which he said made legislators “look like racists.”