CBS Touts Dem Congresswoman Using Daughter to Pin Shooting on Rhetoric: 'Mommy, Are You Going to Get Shot?'

During a bipartisan panel discussion with members of Congress on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric asked about the role of political rhetoric in the Tucson shooting, to which Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz replied: "After my daughter heard...Gabby [Giffords] had been shot, the first thing she asked me was...'Mommy, are you going to get shot?'"

Schultz went on to recall: "...the next thing she said to me was – and this is where you don't realize how closely they're watching – 'But Mommy, Florida's going to pass an immigration law like Arizona and then people are going to be mad at you.'" The Congresswoman concluded: "The civil discourse is very important because it's not just – it's not just adults that – that this permeates. It's our children." Couric did not challenge Schultz's suggestion that the enforcement of stronger immigration laws would cause violence.             

Couric did seem skeptical of the role of political rhetoric in the shooting: "Given that this seems to be, from what we know so far, the work of a lone deranged gunman, is now the right time to really analyze and discuss the political discourse in our country?" South Carolina Democratic Congressman James Clyburn was quick to proclaim: "I think so. Look, I lived through the 50s and the 60s....We've got to really be very, very concerned about how we say things and the things that we do say and how that may impact people."

Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand chimed in: "We may never know what motivated him to commit these heinous crimes, but what we do know is that the climate of debate has degraded so significantly, I believe, over the last decade, that it has to end."

Couric played a clip of Sarah Palin's Facebook video response to the shooting and critics: "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle." Couric wondered: "What is your reaction to some of the things that were included in this video posted by Sarah Palin?"

Schultz blasted the former Alaska governor: "Let's remember that [Congresswoman] Gabby [Giffords] herself talked about, just a few weeks ago, the fact that individuals who shall remain nameless, used violent images and words in her campaign and she talked about how important it was that we dial it back." Couric followed up: "Do you think that's what she was doing, defending violent rhetoric?" Schultz ranted: "I think she has used violent imagery and violent language, and I think she's – it appears to me that she's being somewhat defensive, yes."

Couric questioned attempts to blame the shooting on conservative speech: "Was it appropriate in the immediate aftermath of this event, by some people, to blame right-wing rhetoric?" Schultz claimed: "No one's blaming right-wing rhetoric but that we all agree that the language and the tone and the tenor of our debate has gotten too intense and that we need to lead by example."

Couric particularly challenged Clyburn on the issue: "...you said quote, 'It seems like this gentleman was not satisfied with the way the election turned out' and you blamed candidates like Sharron Angle for using incendiary language like 'finding Second Amendment remedies' during her campaign. Do you think you spoke too soon?" Clyburn stubbornly defended his jump to a conclusion: "No, I don't. Gabby predicted something like this. She, in her own words, said to us a few months ago, in pointing out some of the symbolism."

Moments later, Schultz used her daughter to smear conservatives for advocating stronger immigration laws similar to those in Arizona:

After –  I'm sorry. After my daughter heard that, you know, Gabby had been shot, the first thing she asked me was, you know, 'Mommy, are you going to get shot? Does that mean you're going to get shot?' And then I, you know, did my best to reassure her, tell her, 'No, you know, Mommy takes precautions. You've been to my meetings. You know we have, we take steps to make sure that we're all safe.' But then the next thing she said to me was – and this is where you don't realize how closely they're watching – 'But Mommy, Florida's going to pass an immigration law like Arizona and then people are going to be mad at you.' You know, they're paying attention. The civil discourse is very important because it's not just – it's not just adults that – that this permeates. It's our children.

Couric concluded the discussion by wondering: "What do you think Congresswoman Giffords would think of the debate that has unfolded in this country in the aftermath of these shootings?" Schultz replied: "Oh, I'm positive that she will want a debate to move forward."

For their part, the Republican congressional members on panel provided little contrast to their liberal colleagues and were given less air time. Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas described how Congresswoman Giffords' "last race was very tough. And she personally talked to me about that, and I think it weighs on a member. But I think she wanted this place to be less – the tone to be less partisan."

When Couric asked about Palin's statement, not a single comment was featured from any of the three Republican members of Congress on the panel.  


Here is a full transcript of the January 12 segment:

6:37PM ET

KATIE COURIC: Those same feelings of shock and bewilderment permeate the halls of Congress. Earlier today, I sat down with six of Gabrielle Giffords' colleagues and listened to their congressional voices.

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND [SEN. D-NY]: I know that if anyone could pull through this, it's her. And I even talked to her husband a couple of nights ago, and, you know, he was saying to me how he was telling the doctors that, 'Wait and see. Gabby will be up and walking in two weeks,' and I believe him.

FRANK GUINTA [REP. R-NH]: My first reaction was pure shock, the fact that we had just been sworn in, that there was so much hope and optimism about this congress. And the awesome responsibility that we all share.

MICHAEL MCCAUL [REP. R-TX]: I think we're all still trying to understand this, and I think, as was mentioned, I think how we handle this as members of Congress and how we handle the discourse is very important because I know it was important to her. Her last race was very tough. And she personally talked to me about that, and I think it weighs on a member. But I think she wanted this place to be less – the tone to be less partisan.

COURIC: Will any of you change the way you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis back in your districts, talking to constituents, putting yourself in a similar position?

BILL HUIZENGA [REP. R-MI]: You want to go out and engage and interact with your constituents. That's the nature of our government. And I think how we – how we preserve that is going to be very important.

MCCAUL: I had started a practice where I would at least notify local law enforcement and – when I had public events. I think that's a common sense security precaution that we should be taking. Because there is a lot of anger out there.

COURIC: Given that this seems to be, from what we know so far, the work of a lone deranged gunman, is now the right time to really analyze and discuss the political discourse in our country?

JAMES CLYBURN [REP. D-SC]: I think so. Look, I lived through the 50s and the 60s. And I can tell you, I've seen those eyes that I saw on tv last night and this morning. And we cannot pooh-pooh that. We've got to really be very, very concerned about how we say things and the things that we do say and how that may impact people.

GILLIBRAND: We may never know what motivated him to commit these heinous crimes, but what we do know is that the climate of debate has degraded so significantly, I believe, over the last decade, that it has to end. And whether this is the wake-up call or this is just the reason we're debating this issue now, it's important that we have this debate.

MCCAUL: So there's a wound inflicted upon the nation right now that I think needs to heal and I think that what would be a real tribute to Gabby would be to look at the public discourse and how can we make it more civil.

COURIC: Let me read you something that was in a video released by Sarah Palin this morning. She said quote, 'Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own.'

SARAH PALIN: They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle.

COURIC: What is your reaction to some of the things that were included in this video posted by Sarah Palin?

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I saw the video of what Miss Palin said, and the part that you didn't read was where she suggested that the advocacy that we are all making on behalf of more civil discourse is like we're trying to extract a blood libel.

PALIN: Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn.

SCHULTZ: Let's remember that Gabby herself talked about, just a few weeks ago, the fact that individuals who shall remain nameless, used violent images and words in her campaign and she talked about how important it was that we dial it back.

COURIC: Do you think that's what she was doing, defending violent rhetoric and-

SCHULTZ: I think she has used violent imagery and violent language, and I think she's – it appears to me that she's being somewhat defensive, yes.

GILLIBRAND: I think it's the wrong message to take from this and I think what you're seeing here on a bipartisan basis from leaders all across the Congress is that we will change the nature of the debate ourselves.

COURIC: At the same time, was it appropriate in the immediate aftermath of this event, by some people, to blame right-wing rhetoric?

MCCAUL: We cannot politicize this event. And my concern is that right off the bat that the arrows are starting to fly, and you see it on both sides of the aisle. And that, I think, is a great disappointment, and that's what we have to change up here.

SCHULTZ: No one's blaming right-wing rhetoric but that we all agree that the language and the tone and the tenor of our debate has gotten too intense and that we need to lead by example.

COURIC: Congressman Clyburn, after this incident, you said quote, 'It seems like this gentleman was not satisfied with the way the election turned out' and you blamed candidates like Sharron Angle for using incendiary language like 'finding Second Amendment remedies' during her campaign. Do you think you spoke too soon?

CLYBURN: No, I don't. Gabby predicted something like this. She, in her own words, said to us a few months ago, in pointing out some of the symbolism and words or symbols, and I think that we are responsible for what we say and the way we say it.

GUINTA: I think there's been a general coarsening of society in political realm or outside the political realm. You look at the stuff that kids are watching on TV, the games that they're playing, on the internet, all those different things. And that's a concern that I have had.

SCHULTZ: After –  I'm sorry. After my daughter heard that, you know, Gabby had been shot, the first thing she asked me was, you know, 'Mommy, are you going to get shot? Does that mean you're going to get shot?' And then I, you know, did my best to reassure her, tell her, 'No, you know, Mommy takes precautions. You've been to my meetings. You know we have, we take steps to make sure that we're all safe.' But then the next thing she said to me was – and this is where you don't realize how closely they're watching – 'But Mommy, Florida's going to pass an immigration law like Arizona and then people are going to be mad at you.' You know, they're paying attention. The civil discourse is very important because it's not just – it's not just adults that – that this permeates. It's our children.

COURIC: What do you think Congresswoman Giffords would think of the debate that has unfolded in this country in the aftermath of these shootings?

SCHULTZ: Oh, I'm positive that she will want a debate to move forward.

GILLIBRAND: I'm hoping that from this awful, horrific event, that the bright light that we will see is new leadership, a new level of discourse, and people actually coming together to do good things for America.

COURIC: These members of Congress had a lot to say, so we posted more of that interview online at cbsnews.com.           

— 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