The colossal double standard revealed in the past 24 hours at CNN is a microcosm of the larger media reaction to the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords yesterday. In short, the reporters jumping at the chance to use the shooting to score points against conservatives would in all likelihood be demanding patience and temperance if the potential for political cheap shots weren't available.
The Washington Examiner's Byron York recalled CNN's reaction to the Fort Hood shooting in a post Sunday. The cable channel "became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care."
The important thing is for everyone not to jump to conclusions," said retired Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN the night of the shootings.
"We cannot jump to conclusions," said CNN's Jane Velez-Mitchell that same evening. "We have to make sure that we do not jump to any conclusions whatsoever."
"I'm on Pentagon chat room," said former CIA operative Robert Baer on CNN, also the night of the shooting. "Right now, there's messages going back and forth, saying do not jump to the conclusion this had anything to do with Islam."
The next day, President Obama underscored the rapidly-forming conventional wisdom when he told the country, "I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts." In the days that followed, CNN jouralists and guests repeatedly echoed the president's remarks.
"We can't jump to conclusions," Army Gen. George Casey said on CNN November 8. The next day, political analyst Mark Halperin urged a "transparent" investigation into the shootings "so the American people don't jump to conclusions." And when Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Ft. Hood attack was terrorism, CNN's John Roberts was quick to intervene. "Now, President Obama has asked people to be very cautious here and to not jump to conclusions," Roberts said to Hoekstra. "By saying that you believe this is an act of terror, are you jumping to a conclusion?"
In stark contrast to that reaction, here's how York sums up CNN's coverage of the burgeoning story in Tuscon:
After reporting that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik had condemned what Dupnik called "the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government," CNN's Wolf Blitzer turned to congressional reporter Jessica Yellin for analysis. The sheriff "singled out some of the political rhetoric, as you point out, in creating the environment that allowed this kind of instance to happen," Yellin told Blitzer. "Even though, as you point out, this suspect is not cooperating with investigators, so we don't know the motive. President Obama also delivered that message, saying it's partly the political rhetoric that led to this. So that's why we want to bring up one of the themes that's burning up the social media right now. On Twitter and Facebook, there is a lot of talk, in particular, about Sarah Palin. As you might recall, back in March of last year, when the health care vote was coming to the floor of the House and this was all heating up, Palin tweeted out a message on Twitter saying 'common sense conservatives, don't retreat -- instead reload.' And she referred folks to her Facebook page. On that Facebook page was a list of Democratic members she was putting in crosshairs, and Gabrielle Giffords was one of those in the crosshairs."
Blaming Palin has become the media refrain of choice, despite the preponderance of evidence cited both at NewsBusters and elsewhere that Giffords's shooter was (a) crazy, and (b) of the radical left (to the extent that he had coherent political views).
NewsBusters also reported on CNN's eagerness to assign blame for the shooting on conservatives. It took mere minutes for them to find a few liberals to parrot boilerplate attacks against conservatives - devoid of any evidence, mind you, and before CNN could possibly have known the facts surrounding the shooting.
But not only did CNN and its guests urge viewers not to "jump to conclusions" after the Fort Hood shooting, in one segment, the channel went so far as to misquote an Army private - a victim of and eyewitness to the shooting - in order to cast doubt on his recollection that Major Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar" before opening fire.
CNN was hardly the only media outlet demanding that Americans not "jump to conclusions" after the Fort Hood shooting. And the channel is far from the only one tacitly placing blame for the Giffords shooting at the feet of Sarah Palin or other conservatives.
But the channel does represent a striking cross-section of media reaction, especially given its insistence that it is a moderate, centrist alternative to its cable news competitors. CNN's attitude in this instance speaks volumes about the larger media approach to horrific events such as yesterday's. If Sarah Palin can be blamed, jumping to conclusions is just fine.
It's worth noting once again that the blame heaped on Palin since Saturday's shooting began before the details of the shooting were actually known, as Gabe Malor wrote:
Remember, all this liberal posturing about Sarah Palin's gun rhetoric took place before we knew anything about the shooter. In fact, at that time we didn't even know how many shooters there were. Giffords had been reported dead, then alive, then unknown. For a while it was unclear whether she had been the target or the federal judge who was also killed. This uncertainty about the facts went on for most of the afternoon. But liberals kept a steady faith: this is all Sarah Palin's fault.
How is it that people who endlessly protest that they are part of the "reality-based community" can't even wait for the facts before proclaiming the state of reality? The truth is, liberals were posturing about Palin's "extremist rhetoric" long before the shooting, so it doesn't matter what the facts on the ground are or how disconnected she ultimately is from the event. She's still at fault.
It's perhaps unsurprising that the rabid anti-Palin left would jump at the chance to attribute violence directly to something Palin said or did, facts be damned. But shouldn't we expect better from our news media, who, after all, proclaim themselves "objective" and politically neutral?