Rep. Louis Gohmert (R.-Texas), a former prosecutor and judge and a current member of the House Judiciary Committee, is offering some advice to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who has gained national attention since Saturday for his suggestions that radio and television talk shows were somehow responsible for the shooting attack in Tucson that took the lives of 6 people and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
There are many heroes who showed indomitable courage and grace under fire during this weekend's horrific Tucson massacre. Blowhard Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was not one of them.
If the White House has any sense, President Obama will stay far away from the demagogic Dupnik and his media entourage when he visits Arizona on Wednesday to memorialize the victims. Indeed, if the White House is truly committed to unifying the country, it will explicitly disavow Dupnik's vulture-like exploitation of the shooting rampage.
Within hours of the bloody spree, Dupnik mounted more grandstands than a NASCAR tour champion. A vocal opponent of S.B. 1070, the popular state law cracking down on illegal immigration, Dupnik immediately blamed Arizona for becoming a "mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik knows exactly what he’s doing. He has become a media darling because he is telling them exactly what they want to hear. Facts be damned, he’ll keep enforcing their template until this foolishness takes hold.
Imagine the Saturday morning of congressional aide Mark Kimble. Kimble told of going to a Safeway for a typical meet-and-greet event with his boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Kimble said he went into the store for coffee, and as he came out, Giffords was talking to a couple about Medicare and reimbursements, and federal judge John Roll had just walked up to her and shouted “Hi” – when a gunman opened fire.
Nobody in America should greet this scene with any other initial reaction than horror. Six people were killed, including Judge Roll, several retirees, and a nine-year-old girl. Over a dozen others were seriously injured in the carnage. Giffords was shot in the head and remains in critical condition. Sadly, shamefully, within just minutes, a nasty political spin was kicking in without any brake for decency or evidence. Conservatives were to blame.
On Monday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric announced that Democratic Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik had "been thrust into the national spotlight for some remarks he made," adding, "he's not backing down." In the interview that followed, Dupnik asserted: "If you're in law enforcement and you're not a right-winger you get all kinds of heat from the right-wing nuts."
Couric noted how Dupnik "blamed the rampage in part on overheated political rhetoric, saying Arizona has become, quote, 'a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.'" She acknowledged that "some Republicans have called his remarks irresponsible" and challenged the Sheriff: "Some people would say you were overly politicizing the situation. That it appears at this juncture – although it's unclear – that this was a lone deranged individual that might not have been inspired to do this at all for political reasons." Dupnik laughingly professed: "I'm not a political person by nature. I've been a police officer my entire life. I have no agenda."
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):
Appearing as a guest on Saturday’s special edition of Countdown on MSNBC, Washington Post associate editor Eugene Robinson joined host Keith Olbermann in linking the violent attack on Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords to political rhetoric, presumably by conservatives, and suggested that such public figures must be careful to avoid inciting mentally disturbed individuals. Moments after noting comments by Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik complaining about violent rhetoric on radio and television, Olbermann brought aboard Robinson for further discussion.
While Olbermann at one pointed noted that "We don't know enough about the motives of the man they have in custody," he later posed, "I've never been convinced still that most of the people saying these things actually want to see people shot. What, though, does that matter at this point if people are being shot? How straight a line does it have to be from the one to the other?"
Robinson asserted that "intent doesn’t obviate the crime," and linked political rhetoric to violence by the mentally ill with guns:
Well, I think this is a case in which intent doesn't obviate the crime. No, I think most of these people who say these violent sounding things about how evil your government is and what it's doing to you and who quote Thomas Jefferson about democracy needing to be watered by the blood of patriots and that sort of thing, I don't think they actually intend people to take this seriously, but it can and there are people who are unbalanced who have access to guns who do take it seriously, and we should know that by now.
As he hosted a special two-hour edition of Countdown on Saturday night to cover the violent attack on Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann ended up delivering a "Special Comment" in which he called for an end to the use of violent imagery by political figures of all ideologies, even apologizing for his own history, but he also at one point seemed to describe Sarah Palin and other conservative public figures as "slightly less madmen" than the gunman who attacked Giffords. Olbermann:
We will not because tonight what Mrs. Palin and what Mr. Kelly and what Congressman West and what Ms. Angle and what Mr. Beck and what Mr. O'Reilly and what you and I must understand was that the man who fired today did not fire at a Democratic Congresswoman and her supporters. He was not just a madman incited by 1,000 daily temptations by slightly less madmen to do things they would not rationally condone.
Although the MSNBC host only provided one example of his own past misdeeds - which involved a comment he made about Hillary Clinton in April 2008 - Olbermann’s own history also includes a June 2006 case in which he depicted an image of conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh as a target of gunfire, and in October 2008 when he showed a cartoon image of FNC’s Bill O’Reilly being beaten bloody by the Stewie Griffin character from a Family Guy DVD extra scene. And just in November of last year, Olbermann complained that President Obama would likely negotiate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over tax policy "instead of kicking him in the ass."