Arizona Sheriff Admits There's No Evidence 'Vitriolic Rhetoric' Incited Giffords Shooter

Since making his claim Saturday that the Tucson shootings were caused by "vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business," Pima County Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has become a media darling being regularly quoted by press outlets from coast to coast.

On Sunday, during strong questioning from Fox News's Megyn Kelly, Dupnik admitted that his department has not uncovered one shred of evidence to support his now well-publicized assertion (video follows with partial transcript and commentary, relevant section at 1:55):

MEGYN KELLY: I just want to ask you whether there’s anything you’ve uncovered in your investigation so far that suggests the suspected killer was listening to radio or watching television, and, and in any way inspired by what he saw?

CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY ARIZONA SHERIFF: Well, I know that there had been some contact with Gabrielle Giffords in the past. We have a, as a matter of fact, a letter from her that was dated in 2007 where I don’t know what prompted that particular letter, but she had agreed and invited him to a similar event back in 2007. So there is some history.

KELLY: Right, he according to the criminal complaint he had showed, he had shown up at one of her Congress on the Corners events, and then there was a letter following up I guess in response to that, or there was some correspondence about it. But, what I’m wondering is do you have reason to believe that this particular suspected killer was taking in information or was in any way influenced by the, the vitriol or the rhetoric that you’re referring to that has been, you know, out on the airwaves?

DUPNIK: If your question is specific, I have to be specific and say I don’t have that information yet. The investigation is very, in its very initial phases. But my belief, and I’ve been watching what’s been going on in this country for the last 75 years, and I’ve been a police officer for over 50 years. 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 from doing that. And I think it’s irresponsible to do that.

So, this is just his belief, and has nothing to do with anything that's been uncovered so far in the investigation. If that's the case, why on earth would he be voicing such an opinion - as a county sheriff - without evidence of its validity?

Kelly clearly recognized the hypocrisy:

KELLY: Is that, Sheriff, it sounds like you’re just being very honest, that that’s just your speculation, and that’s not anything that’s fact-based at this point.

DUPNIK: That, that, that’s my opinion, period.

KELLY: And, you know, we’ve had some, some people question whether that is something you should be sharing now because tempers are already inflamed, people are upset about what’s happened. The grieving families are still mourning, the bodies have yet to be buried, and is it the time really to be injecting speculative opinion like that into this case by somebody like yourself Sheriff?

DUPNIK: Well, I think difference of opinion is what makes the world go round and round.

Imagine that: difference of opinion makes the world go round when he wants to express completely unsubstantiated views about a mass-murder. Yet, he feels comfortable telling others that their opinings are vitriolic rhetoric:

DUPNIK: But I think it’s irresponsible for us not at some point to address this kind of behavior and try to put a stop to it. There’s no doubt in my mind that there are consequences to this kind of behavior. When, when people, allegedly credible people who get up in front of cameras and microphones and say things that are not true and try to inflame the public. When millions of dollars are filtered into this country to buy very vitriolic ads, and they don’t have to be identified, the countries that they’re coming from or the people who are donating them, I think it’s time we take a look at it. I think free speech is free speech, but it’s not without consequences.

Exactly what does that have to do with what happened on Saturday? Again, Kelly saw the hypocrisy:

KELLY: And, with respect, Sheriff, I know that you are a Democrat, and you ran for office as a Democrat, and I just want to press you on that a little because I’m sure some of our viewers are asking themselves why you are putting a political spin on this when, when they may be asking why you the Sheriff aren’t just focused on the facts, on uncovering the facts?

DUPNIK: Well, I think that it’s more than just a political spin. I’m not sure that it really has anything to do with politics. You know, I grew up in a country that was totally different from the country that we have today. We didn’t have this kind of nonsense going on, and it used to be that politicians from different parties could sit down, forget about their ideology, and work on the country’s problems. We don’t see that happening today. As a matter of fact, we see exactly the opposite. We see one Party trying to block the attempts of another Party to make this a better country. And I think that it’s time that we as a country need to look into our souls and into our hearts and say is what we’re doing really in the best interests of this country or is there something better that we can do.

That deserves a replay: "We see one Party trying to block the attempts of another Party to make this a better country."

So, this sheriff that is suddenly being revered by media members across the fruited plain thinks Republicans are trying to block attempts by Democrats to make this a better country. That's some impartial arbiter:

KELLY: That’s a fair point, you know, separating it apart from what we saw in Arizona yesterday, I mean, you could make the argument that we just need to come together as a country. But I think, you know, people are looking at what happened in Tucson, and what you seem to be telling us, what the Feds seem to be telling us, that we’re dealing with – and I don’t use this term legally, I’m not trying to say anything about how this is going to plead out in a courtroom – some sort of madman, just like we’ve had in the past. The assassination of Robert Kennedy. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. You know, the assassination of Martin Luther King, and you refer to a time gone by. There were madmen then, there are madmen now. And, it just, you know, is it really a place of a Sheriff to stir the pot on either side of the political aisle?

DUPNIK: Well, I guess that’s for the listeners to decide.

KELLY: That’s fair enough, Sir, I appreciate that answer.

In the end, Dupnik is just another Democrat that is hostile to Republicans and is expressing his opinion as such. Yet media outlet after media outlet have quoted the comments he made Saturday as if they were coming from a legal perspective and not a political one.

Maybe in the future when his views are being cited, a "D" should be next to his name just like any other politician's. At least then the viewer or reader would have a better idea of the source.

Nice job, Megyn. Brava!

For more on Dupnik's comments and their coverage, please see FoxNews.com's "Pima County Sheriff Sets Off Debate on Price of Free Speech."

(H/T NBer Gary Hall)

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.