MSNBC's Mitchell Blames Palin, Again, for Tucson Shooting

MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell continued her crusade against Sarah Palin today, reiterating the fallacious contention that the former Alaska governor is at least partly responsible for the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and a congresswoman critically injured.

On her eponymous afternoon program, Mitchell criticized Palin's "campaign tactics" in an interview with former Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who was targeted in the 2010 election by SarahPAC, Palin's political action committee, as a vulnerable incumbent.

"Ann Kirkpatrick was also targeted by Palin's campaign and lost her reelection bid after also experiencing a number of threats while she was in office," reported Mitchell, who attempted conflate political opposition to Kirkpatrick with personal threats made by extremists. "Let's talk, first of all, about what it felt like going through that campaign and what were the specific threats? Was anything ever verified? How did you deal with it?"

The NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent stressed the fact that Giffords was among a handful of Democrats targeted for defeat by SarahPAC, but failed to report that similar "targeting" tactics have been employed by operatives on both sides for years.

"When I was in the game of politics, I used to use targets in ads all the time," asserted Bob Beckel, a Democratic strategist who ran Walter Mondale's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1984.

Echoing Beckel's assessment, the Democratic Leadership Council published a map similar to Palin's in 2004 that targeted key races with the caption: "BEHIND ENEMY LINES."

Palin's spokeswoman Rebecca Monsour released a statement explaining the map, but Mitchell dismissed the explanation: "Does that, frankly, pass the laugh test?"

For her part, Kirkpatrick perpetuated Mitchell's irresponsible effort to blame Palin for tragic shooting.

"It was an angry and mean-spirited campaign in many ways," lamented Kirkpatrick. "Words and actions do have consequences."

A transcript of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
Andrea Mitchell Reports
January 11, 2011

1:12 P.M. EST

ANDREA MITCHELL: In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, Sarah Palin has remained silent about the national debate over her campaign tactics against Gabrielle Giffords and 20 other Democrats during last year's election. At issue, a controversial map using gunsight imagery to illustrate Giffords's district and the others. Palin's only response so far has been to criticize opponents in an email reported by Fox commentator Glenn Beck. But nothing direct. We've had, of course, numerous inquiries. Former Arizona Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick was also targeted by Palin's campaign and lost her reelection bid after also experiencing a number of threats while she was in office. Congresswoman, good to see you, thank you so much for joining us. Let's talk, first of all, about what it felt like going through that campaign and what were the specific threats? Was anything ever verified? How did you deal with it?

ANN KIRKPATRICK, former Dem. Rep.: Well, you know, it was an angry and mean-spirited campaign in many ways. And I think it's really shaken us to the core here in Arizona as well as the nation. I think we've got to look at our behavior. This is a time to assess what we do and take responsibility for our actions. And Andrea, it's as simple as this: words do matter. Words and actions do have consequences.

MITCHELL: Did you ever talk to Gabrielle Giffords about the campaign and about your shared experience going through it?

KIRKPATRICK: Oh sure. A lot of us were on that list with the crosshairs on our districts and our names posted. And, you know, it was especially disconcerting for our families.


MITCHELL: One of Palin's aides, Rebecca Monsour, over the weekend said that they were not intended as crosshairs, that they were symbols such as surveyor's map. Does that, frankly, pass the laugh test?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, you know, again, I think we've got to look at our actions and what we say and do is perceived. That's the important thing.

MITCHELL: But do you think they were designed to be gun imagery? There's a problem. Do you see a connection between using gun imagery and violence? Not in this case, because nothing has been proved, but just in general. Do you think that it is inflammatory?

KIRKPATRICK: I do and I think that the problem is that we do have people suffering from mental illness and people who are unstable. And I think the use of this imagery and inflammatory language gives them permission to act out in a violent way. They think that that's being patriotic.

MITCHELL: Do you think it's unfair to blame Sarah Palin in any way? Not for this case, but to be focusing so much on her. Critics have said that really she's not part of this and why bring her into it?

KIRKPATRICK: You know, I think the blame game is not helpful right now at all. I really think we need to come together as Arizonans and as Americans and work together to heal our country and rebuild. And I just don't think blame is productive at all in this instance.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.