CBS's Cordes: 'Increasingly Angry Tone in Politics' May Have Led to 'Culture of Violence'

Reporting on the political fallout of the Tucson shooting on Monday's CBS Early Show, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes declared: "Now some are questioning whether the increasingly angry tone in politics could have contributed to a culture of violence."

Cordes noted how "members of Congress took their soul searching public, Sunday," followed by sound bites of two Democrats lamenting heated political rhetoric. Cordes observed: "Look no further than recent campaign ads....Filled with images and rhetoric that would once have been considered off limits." Two clips were played as examples, the first from West Virginia Democratic Governor and then Senate candidate Joe Manchin, going after his own party, using a rifle to shoot a bullet through proposed Cap and Trade legislation. Cordes failed to identify Manchin as a Democrat. The other ad was from Alabama Tea Party candidate Rick Barber, with a depiction of Thomas Jefferson calling on conservatives: "Gather your armies."   

Cordes singled out Sarah Palin as being guilty of inciting violence: "Congresswoman Giffords complained when crosshairs were placed on her district, and 19 others, on a Sarah Palin campaign website." On the Saturday Evening News, Cordes similarly went after Palin, arguing: "Giffords and many others complained that someone unstable might act on that imagery."

On Monday, Cordes remarked that Palin "expressed her condolences to the victims on Facebook this weekend. But has not addressed the controversy." Cordes quickly added: "A top Palin aide did grant one interview, to Tammy Bruce, a right-wing radio host who dubs herself quote, 'a chick with a gun and a microphone.'" A picture was shown on screen of Bruce sitting behind a microphone holding a gun.         

Early in the 8AM ET hour, co-host Erica Hill interviewed the communications director for Congresswoman Giffords, C.J. Karamargin, and fretted over political rhetoric: "There's been the [Pima County] Sheriff [Clarence Dupnik], has brought up the rhetoric....Which he feels is incredibly damaging. Noting, in his words, 'Free speech – it may be free speech but it comes with consequences'....Do you see a change in the rhetoric in this country?" Karamargin replied: "The Congresswoman said the same thing. After our office was targeted on the day of the health care vote, we had a front door shot out, she said that there are consequences to our rhetoric. Being mindful of that is important."

The one instance during the broadcast of someone denouncing the injection of politics into the tragedy came from John and Roxanna Green, parents of murdered 9-year-old Christina Green. During the 7:30AM ET half hour, Hill played a taped interview with them in which she wondered: "This has become a little political on both sides. People pointing fingers. Talking about that. Is that hard for you to hear?" John Green responded in part: "That just makes me even more angry. Because that's not what this is about. This is a random act of cowardice, and-" Roxanna Green added: "A senseless act." John Green continued: "And this is not, you know, shouldn't be used for that."

Here is a full transcript of Cordes's January 10 report:

7:12AM ET

CHRIS WRAGGE: Now to the reaction in Washington. As we've been reporting this morning, President Obama is calling for a moment of silence this morning to honor the victims of the tragedy in Tucson. He'd also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes has more now from Capitol Hill for us this morning. Nancy, good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Chris, good morning to you. Yes, members here on Capitol Hill are still stunned. Congresswoman Giffords is well-liked here, as was her staffer, Gabe Zimmerman. And now some are questioning whether the increasingly angry tone in politics could have contributed to a culture of violence.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tragedy in Tucson; Political Fallout From Shooting Reaches Capitol Hill]

Members of Congress took their soul searching public, Sunday.

STENY HOYER [REP. D-MD]: It's been a much angrier, confrontational environment over the last two or three years.

EMANUEL CLEAVER [REP. D-MO]: Much of it originates here in Washington, D.C. and we export it around the country.

CORDES: Look no further than recent campaign ads.

JOE MANCHIN: And I'll take dead aim at the Cap and Trade bill.

CORDES: Filled with images and rhetoric that would once have been considered off limits.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Gather your armies.

CORDES: Congresswoman Giffords complained when crosshairs were placed on her district, and 19 others, on a Sarah Palin campaign website.

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action.

CORDES: Palin expressed her condolences to the victims on Facebook this weekend. But has not addressed the controversy. A top Palin aide did grant one interview, to Tammy Bruce, a right-wing radio host who dubs herself quote, 'a chick with a gun and a microphone.'

[PICTURE OF TAMMY BRUCE SITTING AT MICROPHONE HOLDING A GUN]

REBECCA MANSOUR: The graphic it's just, it's basic – we're not – we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you'd see on a map.

CORDES: Newly installed speaker John Boehner sought to soothe rattled House members.

JOHN BOEHNER: No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duty.

CORDES: All legislation here on Capitol Hill has been canceled this week, save for a resolution Wednesday honoring Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims. Chris.

WRAGGE: CBS's Nancy Cordes on the Hill for us this morning. Nancy, thank you.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC