Remarks by a Pima County, AZ sheriff that broadcast "vitriol we hear inflaming the American public" may have pushed an unstable gunman over The Edge and led to his shooting rampage in Tucson on Saturday have been denounced by the conservative commentators at whom they were apparently directed. At a news conference to discuss the attack in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and a federal judge was among five others who were killed, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik singled out "people who make a living off" vicious political rhetoric as possible inciters of the shooting. "That may be free speech," he said, but it "is not without consequence." Conservative commentators were quick to respond that the sheriff, who shared many of Giffords's political views, had used a news conference to discuss the investigation as a political soap box. They pointed out that the sheriff had no evidence that the alleged assailant, Jared Lee Loughner, shared their views. Indeed, a former classmate of the man described him in an interview as a "left-wing pothead" and others pointed out that Giffords was also the political target of some fellow Democrats for voting against Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader. (A diarist on the liberal website TheDailyKos.com posted an entry titled "My CongressWOMAN Voted Against Nancy Pelosi! And is Now DEAD to Me!") On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera came to the defense of his fellow commentators who were among those accused of inflaming unbalanced fanatics. "That is an insult to the fine journalists here and I feel personally offended by it," Rivera said. Still others noted that Loughner is 22 years old and that few people of that age watch cable news programs or listen to talk radio.

10/01/2011