Some Democrats are calling for a cease-fire in a heated liberal campaign to pin blame for the Tucson, Ariz., massacre on conservative speech and specifically on former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
No evidence has surfaced that the shooting suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, was motivated by any political speech, left or right. News reports tell of a deeply troubled man who thinks the government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, hates the Bible and was thrown out of college for fear he would become violent.
But that did not stop Democrats, and what conservatives call the liberal mainstream media, from launching an all-out attack on conservatives within hours of the Saturday slayings.
Bernard Goldberg, a former CBS reporter and best-selling author, said: “I can’t remember when libs in the [mainstream media] have been so corrupt and so cynical. The wounded are still bleeding, and they’re making political hay.”
He told Fox News, “In all my years as a working journalist, Ive never seen such shallow, thoughtless, agenda-driven drivel as I have in the past 36 hours — and its all masquerading as serious analysis and commentary.”
A mere few hours after the massacre, liberal pundits and news sites began assigning blame to a “climate of hate” they asserted was created by conservatives. They put blame on what they called “right-wing hate speech,” referencing Mrs. Palin’s use of cross hairs on maps of some Democratic districts for the 2010 election.
One cross-hair symbol was superimposed on the Arizona district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who lies in critical condition after being shot through the head Saturday.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, perhaps the Op-Ed page’s most anti-conservative writer, blogged shortly after the shooting spree that the political right was responsible.
Under a headline “Right Wing Is Responsible for a Climate of Hate,” Mr. Krugman labeled the killer a part of “right-wing extremism.”
“Wheres that toxic rhetoric coming from? Lets not make a false pretense of balance: its coming, overwhelmingly, from the right,” he wrote.
But after three days of liberals blaming conservatives, some Democrats are urging a different message.
Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said people should “cool it.”
“This is not the time for any [finger-pointing]. This is the time for us to come together,” Mr. Rendell said on Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show, according to the conservative commentator’s website.
“I thought Speaker [John A. Boehner] was terrific in what he said. An attack on one congressman is an attack on everyone. Everyone should just cool it, try to support the families in every way we can.”
On the same show, longtime Democratic Party strategist Bob Beckel said, “I think its a perfect example of people trying to take advantage of a situation before they actually know the facts. The reason this guy did what he did was because he was a lunatic, and he should have been stopped by the psychiatric community before this.”
In a speech Wednesday at the Center for American Progress, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, cautioned against blaming a political faction. He also complimented the House speaker for suspending legislative action.
“Many observers have already reduced this tragedy to simple questions of whether overheated rhetoric is to blame, or one partisan group or another,” the senator said. “And surely today many pundits and politicians are measuring their words a little more carefully and thinking a little more about what theyre saying. But in the weeks and months ahead, the real issue we need to confront isnt just what role divisive political rhetoric may have played on Saturday, but its the violence [that] divisive, overly simplistic dialogue does to our democracy every day.”
Earlier Wednesday, Mrs. Palin posted a video on her Facebook page that accused journalists and pundits of inciting hatred and violence.
“But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible,” she said.
The term “blood libel” is the false allegation that Jews kill non-Jews, especially Christian children, to acquire blood for the Passover or other Jewish rituals, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. The Associated Press said it has been used in other contexts, and Mrs. Palin’s meaning was not clear. Her aides did not immediately respond to e-mail from the news organization.
“There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal,” Mrs. Palin said. “And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those ‘calm days’ when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?
The liberal campaign got much of its energy from Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a liberal Democrat. He held a press conference after the shooting rampage to blame conservative speech and quickly became the most quoted man in America.
What first struck conservatives about the barrage is that the reporters and pundits provided no evidence to link conservative speech to the crime. As more facts about Mr. Loughner emerged, the public learned he was not some tea party loyalist, but a possibly mentally ill loner who had repeated run-ins with the police. Sheriff Dupnik acknowledged on Fox News he had no evidence for his indictment of conservative talk radio.
A friend of Mr. Loughner’s told ABC News on Wednesday, “He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didnt listen to political radio. He didnt take sides. He wasnt on the left. He wasnt on the right.”
Secondly, if references to “targets” and guns amounts to a climate of hate that caused the Tucson tragedy, such references can be found on the political left.
The Daily Kos website, for example, had put Mrs. Giffords on — its words — a “bull’s-eye” list of Democrats who should be defeated in the party primary for voting against President Obama.
The Democratic Leadership Council also put out its own election map with targets on Republican districts.