- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

DENVER — The next time Colorado progressives hold a rally to denounce the GOP for its vitriolic rhetoric, they may want to leave the “War on Women” signs at home.

No sooner had ProgressNow’s Amy Runyon-Harms finished blasting Republicans for creating the “toxic environment” that led to last week’s Planned Parenthood shooting than a reporter pointed out a nearby placard that used the word “war” and thus implied violence.

A flustered Ms. Runyon-Harms said, “Um, that’s not a phrase I use typically,” adding, “I don’t know that anyone would construe that to mean it’s a literal war on women.”

The awkward moment exposed a glaring problem with the campaign by Democrats and Planned Parenthood supporters to blame Republican “hateful speech” for the attack at a Colorado Springs clinic, namely that the “inflammatory rhetoric” cuts both ways.

“Perhaps the left has forgotten its own ‘hate speech’ about those with whom they disagree,” cracked the conservative website Colorado Peak Politics, adding, “If Runyon Harms wants to stop the ‘hate speech,’ she could always try leading by example.”

At a Wednesday press call to demand a Justice Department probe into domestic terrorism against abortion clinics, pro-choice advocates called out the “hateful rhetoric” on the right but didn’t exactly mince words themselves.

Pro-life groups and Republicans were slammed as “extremists” and accused them of “a witch hunt,” “heinous lies” and “spreading fear and hate.”

“It’s time for [GOP presidential candidates] Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump and the extremist hatemongers in the media to stop trying to detract from the facts and take responsibility for the words they said and the violence they helped inspire,” said Laura Leavitt, Courage Campaign campaign manager.

The pro-life Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos with Planned Parenthood officials were described repeatedly as “fake,” even though the center has released the full footage and nobody has disputed the identity of those appearing on camera.

The gunman’s motive in the Friday attack, which left three dead and nine injured, is still unknown, although he reportedly used the phrase “no more baby parts” in an interview with investigators. His ex-wife told NBC he had glued the locks of another Planned Parenthood facility 20 years ago.

Referring to the shooting, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “maybe in some way, it’s a function of the inflammatory rhetoric that we see.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wasn’t buying the “inflammatory rhetoric” argument.

“The thing that drove him most was he was a very evil, crazy man. If you want to talk rhetoric, I see rhetoric from all different issues if they want to make that argument,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Republican strategist Dick Wadhams characterized the campaign as an increasingly common tactic by the left to stifle debate by delegitimizing dissenting voices.

“They only believe in free speech when they’re talking,” Mr. Wadhams said. “They demand silence from anybody who disagrees with them. It’s just farcical. They should be embarrassed. They’re not, but they should be.”

The progressive movement has used this strategy before, primarily on college campuses. Labeling conservative points of view as “triggering” — and, thus, unacceptable — has proven effective at universities, leading to attempts at censorship with “speech codes” and “free speech zones.”

Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, called the campaign “anti-democratic,” saying it argues that “only pro-abortion voices should be heard and that those that disagree must be silenced.”

“Differences of opinion are natural in a diverse society — and the American system of vigorous debate channeled through our duly elected representatives is the appropriate place for such engagement,” Ms. Yoest said in a Wednesday statement.

One of Planned Parenthood’s leading critics, Mrs. Fiorina said she would not be deterred by the campaign to stop the “inflammatory” criticism, saying she has said nothing about the abortion provider that isn’t true.

“I haven’t used hyperbolic rhetoric about Planned Parenthood,” Mrs. Fiorina told Fox News. “I’ve spoken the truth. And I will continue to speak the truth.”

She said the real target is her message. “They are taking issue because they do not like the message. And this messenger will not be silenced.”

While no Republican candidate or pro-life group has been accused of calling for violence against clinics, pro-choice advocates argue that heated anti-abortion language has a history of fueling attacks on clinics.

“This kind of rhetoric has historically always led to violence: violence against providers, violence against clinic workers and, in this case, violence against patients and police officers,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Those on the right pointed out that conservatives have also been attacked in the aftermath of incendiary criticism, citing the 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council, which the gunman himself said was politically motivated. He even brought a bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches to stuff in victims’ mouths.

“Despite disregard for the facts, progressives who want to make such a claim ought to be careful about sawing off the branch they’re sitting on,” said Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry in an op-ed for The Week.

“If the Center for Medical Progress is responsible for Dear’s victims, are gay rights activists to be blamed for the shooting of the Family Research Council’s security guard, since the shooter in that instance said he attacked FRC because they are ‘anti-gay’?” he asked.

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