When four members of the media, only one of them decidely right-leaning, agree on something, viewers should pay heed: blaming conservative talk show hosts whenever someone goes on an unprovoked shooting spree is wrong.
Such was the unanimous conclusion reached on Sunday's "Reliable Sources" when host Howard Kurtz and his guests -- Mark Halperin of Time magazine, Ana Marie Cox of Air America Radio, and Jim Geraghty of National Review -- got together to discuss the predictable reaction to Wednesday's killings at the Holocaust Museum Memorial.
Most surprisingly, even the uber-liberal Cox concurred:
I do think it is irresponsible to make that a very like hard connection. I have to totally disagree with Rachel [Maddow] and Keith [Olbermann] on this. I think that that was going a little bit too far to compare him to Rush Limbaugh.
Imagine that. What follows is an embedded video of this surprising segment (relevant section at 12:00) along with a partial transcript:
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Ten days after the murder of abortion doctor, George Tiller sparked an eruption of partisan finger pointing, tragedy struck again, this time at Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum when James Von Brunn shot and killed a security guard this week, the pundits went at it again. Was there a link between inflammatory talk on the right and this deranged anti-Semite?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Now within less than two weeks, we have seen two shootings -- two fatal shootings in which the prime suspect is quite clearly motivated by extreme right wing political views.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Rush Limbaugh knows not to bother denying that Von Brunn's rhetoric sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh's.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This guy is a leftist. If anything, this guy's beliefs, this guy's hate stems from influence that you find on the left, not on the right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Ana Marie Cox, is it fair in the case of this Holocaust Museum nut job for liberal pundits to suggest any link at all to right-wing media talk?
ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "AIR AMERICA RADIO": Is it fair at all? That's a really complicated question. I mean, obviously, this sort of -- whether or not you could take a moral responsibility for something over a direct responsibility for something. I think if I was someone who was using some of the same rhetoric that he used, I would feel some moral responsibility for his actions, but there's not something you can draw a legal line between.
And I do think it is irresponsible to make that a very like hard connection. I have to totally disagree with Rachel and Keith on this. I think that that was going a little bit too far to compare him to Rush Limbaugh.
KURTZ: Jim Geraghty, when Von Brunn -- this guy has a well- documented history of hate, going back 30 years, which is well before there was a Fox News or Rush Limbaugh had a national radio show.
JIM GERAGHTY, AUTHOR AND FOUNDER THE CAMPAIGN SPOT BLOG ON NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: It's always very tempting to say that those who disagree with you aren't just wrong or mistaken, but that they're actively evil and that they're insane. And I think it's a temptation you find on both sides of the aisle.
The Unabomber, apparently was a very involved in varying environmental causes so there are some folks on the right who wanted to say, "This shows you that the left environmentalists are wackos. Not all of them are. In fact quite a few of them aren't.
So it's kind of just cheap point scoring to say, "Look, this is why you shouldn't listen to Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck because all their listeners are potential terrorists just waiting to go off.
KURTZ: And yet Mark Halperin, it seems that both sides -- at least some members on both sides -- can't resist the point scoring. We saw this in the George Tiller murder as well; an immediate rush by commentators to start assigning blame.
MARK HALPERIN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: It's really unfortunate, Howard. The first thing we should all do is deplore the loss of human life and feel bad for the victims and their families. The second thing is we should not let the freak show of our left/right politics on cable TV, on the Internet, dominate how people can cherry pick biographical aspects of some of the people who've committed these horrible acts.
What we need to do is have responsible people. And I think the president should be stepping forward more than he has. He should lead a bipartisan, nonpartisan dialogue to say what has happened here -- what does it mean for our society.
This kind of dialogue and kind of debate which is run of the mill and takes over almost every political discussion in this country cannot be allowed to dominate discussions of horrible acts of violence on either side in any case.
KURTZ: But since you raised that part, Mark, how much responsibility does cable TV have for putting on what you call this nightly freak show?
HALPERIN: A ton and it shouldn't happen. Because once you start cherry picking and trying to figure out how to connect the motivations and biography and rantings of people who commit these horrible acts with other people, you are committing an absolutely irresponsible act. And you're committing an act, which, again, is only going to inflame.
You know, cable TV does what it does. People need to step forward -- responsible people, politicians, civic leaders, people in the media -- and say we're not going to take an act of violence and turn it into a political football.