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THE FAULTY PRESS

News coverage of the Arizona shooting showcased a wide spray of partisan attacks in the 48 hours that followed the tragedy, with collateral damage and much talk of political rhetoric and biased media coverage. A charged environment, intense public interest and minimal facts led to extrapolation, error, blame and instant agenda.

“This is a horrendous act of violence. But does it surprise you, in the context of the bitterness of Arizona politics at the moment?” asked ABC News correspondent David Wright in the aftermath.

“The safe observation for us to make now — you will hear it from others all week — is that the angry and irresponsible talk that might lead an unhinged person to pick up a gun is common across the political landscape, from right to left. But that simply is not true,” declared a Chicago Sun-Times editorial. “Overwhelmingly today, the fear-mongering and demonizing flow from the right, aided and abetted by cable TV and talk-radio hosts.”

A New York Daily News column headine read, “Rep.Gabrielle Giffords‘ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands” suggesting that a 10-month-old voter campaign at Mrs. Palin’s political action committee website that used a rifle cross-hair symbol to single out Mrs. Giffords and 20 other lawmakers for their support of President Obama’s heath care reform contributed to the grave wounding of the Arizona Democrat.

“Anyone with any sense at all knows that violent language can incite actual violence, that metaphor can incite murder. At the very least, Palin added to a climate of violence,” Daily News columnist Michael Daly explained.

His newspaper also offered a reader poll asking whether Mrs. Palin “shares responsibility for the shooting”; a majority of respondents — 55 percent — said she could not be held accountable for “encouraging lunatics.” Meanwhile, CNN, National Public Radio and Reuters were among major news organizations to report Mrs. Giffords had succumbed from her wounds, says Craig Silverman, a PBS media analyst and creator of regretthe error.com, a site that tracks journalistic gaffes.

“The media, under the guise of ‘a full exposition’ of the evil in Arizona, is back to subtly and not so subtly pinning the blame for the attempted assassination of the congresswoman and the related shootings on the tea party movement, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, me, you, and everyone right of center,” says Redstate columnist Erick Erickson.

“And from what we now know, it is not just media malpractice, but a lie,” he says, adding, “By the way, as an exit thought, the tea party movement won in November. Winners don’t go on shooting sprees.”

Observes Linda Valdez, a columnist with the Arizona Republic, “The debate over the consequences of ugly rhetoric began long before the victims fell Saturday.”

BLOOM OFF BLOOMBERG

Alas, a blizzard of frosty opinion swirls around New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose favorability ratings among voters — now at 37 percent — are at an all-time low following his lousy management of a major snowstorm, according to a new Marist Poll. Indeed, there is still uncollected garbage on the streets of Brooklyn and elsewhere, languishing on sidewalks since Christmas. Those Brooklynites in particular give Mr. Bloomberg a dismal 24 percent favorability, the very lowest of the low numbers.

And the snow matter still matters: Seventy-one percent of voters give the mayor a “poor” rating for his storm management prowess — a cautionary tale for officials who don’t believe that streets, garbage or public utilities hold political sway.

“Mayor Bloomberg clearly will need a big shovel if he wants to dig himself out of this political storm,” observes Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which also found that 53 percent of Big Apple voters say New York and all its boroughs are headed in the wrong direction, and “need a new compass.”

GAS ALERT

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