Tom Brokaw Praises Sheriff Dupnik For Remarks Against Violent Rhetoric, Wishes More Would Speak Out

Appearing on Monday's "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw praised Sheriff Dupnik of Pima County, Ariz. for condemning political vitriol, and wished more officials would follow suit. Dupnik, a Democrat, blamed violent political rhetoric in part for the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), and singled out conservatives Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle for instances of unacceptable hate speech.

Brokaw thought officials have been "timid" in their criticism of violent political speech, in the wake of Saturday's shooting. "The Pima County Sheriff is not," he continued. "He is speaking out, and too few others have because they're worried about retribution."

Brokaw added that officials are hesitant to condemn hate speech because they fear sharp backlash from the public via the internet. The press is partially responsible for that fear mongering, he opined. "They're worried about the internet being lit up against them. And that's something that those of us on this side of the camera also have to be thinking about and not just be feeding that," he preached.
 

 

On the Fox News Channel's "Geraldo At-Large" Sunday night, Sheriff Dupnik singled out conservatives Sarah Palin and former Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle for unacceptable rhetoric against political opponents.

Dupnik referenced a SarahPAC political map from a year ago which featured crosshairs over each congressional district targeted by the PAC to be won in the election. The respective districts were led by congressmen who had voted for the health care bill.

Angle's comment was from early in 2010, where she hinted at the possibility of Americans finding "Second Amendment remedies" for a tyrannical government if "Congress keeps going the way it is."

Dupnik linked their inflammatory comments with the Tuscon shooting  "I think those statements are totally irresponsible and are not without consequences. And we are seeing them here," claimed the sheriff, who is a Democrat and friend of Rep. Giffords, as the Washington Post reported.

Dupnik held a national press conference Saturday night following the shooting, and followed up his remarks by appearing on Sunday's "Geraldo At-Large" and "America Live" on the Fox News Channel. As Mediaite reported, however, Dupnik offered no direct evidence linking the causes of the shooting to inflammatory political rhetoric.

The Pima County sheriff simply claimed that there's "no doubt in my mind that when a number of people night and day try to inflame the public, that there's going to be some consequences for doing that and I think that's irresponsible to do that."

Brokaw, on Monday's "Morning Joe," lamented the political violence in America over the past decades and condemned inflammatory rhetoric of the past year.

What instances of "violent rhetoric" was Brokaw referring to? He mentioned the map of targets by Sarah Palin's political action committee, and also referred to a commercial by West Virginia senatorial candidate Joe Mancin which featured the Democrat taking aim at the cap-and-trade bill with a high-powered rifle.

Brokaw, after recounting the violent political events of the 1960's and 70's, said that "violence and guns are a part of American politics, tragically. And I would hope that this incident will give us all great pause and prompt us to find a different way to resolve our differences in a different way, to talk about our differences."

A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on January 10 at 8:28 a.m. EST, is as follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Tom, what are your thoughts about this tragic weekend?

TOM BROKAW: Well I've had a lot of thoughts, especially being here in California where I spent so much of my reporting career. I Rushed down to the Ambassador Hotel the night that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, shortly after Dr. King had been killed. Here in San Francisco George Marsconi of course was killed as a mayor, by gunshot. And Harvey Milk. I was in San Francisco and Sacramento with President Ford when he was the subject of two very close calls of assassination attempts by gunshot. The first big story of my reporting career was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Violence and guns are a part of American politics, tragically. And I would hope that this incident will give us all great pause and prompt us to find a different way to resolve our differences in a different way, to talk about our differences.

If I can just go on for a moment Joe, we last fall did a documentary for USA on intolerance in America. 79 percent of the people think that the political system is simply too deeply divided. And 59 percent of the people that we polled in a national poll said that they think that there's a rising intolerance in this country. If we're going to resolve these problems, which are monumental, we're going to have to find a different way to talk about them and to get them resolved. And this tragedy aside, I would hope that this would be a great opportunity to do it – this is a heartbreaking event in Tuscon, but if anything good can come out of it, I would hope that can temper some of our comments and find a new climate in which to resolve these acute differences.

What we're seeing in the short term, however, is our rhetoric accelerated again, as some people are trying to blame one another or are being very defensive, so we've got to get beyond that.

(...)

SCARBOROUGH: ...trying to attach a political label to a deranged young man.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well, and taking the story, Tom, to the next level and using it as a platform for an irresponsible megaphone. That's what we saw, especially on the internet, in the hours after the shooting. And I think the bigger picture will be, is it possible to have elected officials take responsibility and call out those who use irresponsible rhetoric, and those running for office, or those who have run for office, who use their megaphone innapropriately, instead of just trying to appeal to the base and latch on? There are politicians who have come on this show who have not been honest about people they support. And I go now, Tom, to Sarah Palin, and the use of the crosshairs. How do you characterize that part of the story?

BROKAW: I think in part a lot of public officials are timid. The Pima County Sheriff is not. He is speaking out, and too few others have because they're worried about retribution. They're worried about the internet being lit up against them. And that's something that those of us on this side of the camera also have to be thinking about and not just be feeding that. Look, Sarah Palin with "Don't Retreat; Reload," and the crosshairs on the map – people also have to remember that the West Virginia governor Joe Mancin when he was running for the Senate, a Democrat, had an ad in which he took out a high-powered rifle and shot the cap-and-trade bill as a metaphor for what he would do when he got to Washington. I think all of you know that I have had guns all my life, I've grown up around them – but in Arizona, you can go into a gun store without a permit or a background check, buy a Glock semi-automatic with a 30-round clip, even though you've demonstrated aberrant behavior. So there's been a lot of breakdown in the situation we have to address that goes beyond the political rhetoric. Mental health treatment – if this young man had shown up in that classroom dead-drunk for three days, he'd be in jail as a public nuisance. But because he demonstrated aberrant mental behavior. And they asked him for a psychiatric evaluation; he was turned loose into society, and in Arizona he can go get whatever he wants in terms of a lethal weapon

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014