Almost immediately after the shooting in Tucson that killed six people and left Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords severely wounded, the media establishment linked the attack with a debate about “civility,” suggesting an association between Jared Loughner’s rampage and the words and phrases used in national political debates.
Many of these network news stories offered ambiguous references to, as CBS’s Bob Schieffer put it on the January 9 edition of Sunday Morning, “the mean and hateful tone that now marks our modern politics.” Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, in a soundbite on NBC’s Today the next morning, pointed his finger at “the left and the right” as contributing to what he termed “the climate of violence.”
There’s certainly no shortage of instances of the Left deploying violent rhetoric, but how evenly did the media divide the blame during the first few days of this national debate about civility? MRC analysts reviewed all 55 broadcast network stories or segments discussing the discourse from just after the shooting (January 8) through the evening of the national memorial service on January 12, reviewing the ABC, CBS and NBC morning, evening and Sunday talk shows.
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on Sarah Palin's first interview since the Tucson shooting: "She accused the Left and the news media of trying to destroy her message, trying to destroy her, said she was being accused of being an accessory to murder." Cordes forgot to mention her role in furthering those accusations against the former Alaska governor.
After playing a clip of Palin's Monday interview on Fox News' Hannity, Cordes mentioned: "The early response I'm hearing from some on the Left about this interview is, 'Look we never said she was an accessory to murder, we simply said she was an accessory to in-civility in politics.'" On the day of the shooting, reporting for the CBS Evening News, Cordes implied Palin played a role in inciting the violence: "Giffords was one of 20 Democrats whose districts were lit up in cross hairs on a Sarah Palin campaign Web site last spring. Giffords and many others complained that someone unstable might act on that imagery."
On Saturday, the New York Times's Public Editor offered a milquetoast apologia for the paper's leading role in falsely ascribing blame for the Tucson massacre to conservative pundits and politicians.
Nowhere in the column did Public Editor Arthur Brisbane address columnist Paul Krugman's false smear of Rep. Michele Bachmann, noted in a letter sent by NewsBusters to Brisbane's office on Friday.
Brisbane attributed the rush to blame, at least in part, Sarah Palin and other conservatives for the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others at a Tucson Safeway to the Times's generic efforts "to define the context of a story, to set up a frame for it, sometimes before the facts can be fully understood."
Keith Olbermann on Monday cherry-picked a new poll to bash the Tea Party as a violent threat to elected officials.
As he discussed new findings in a Daily Kos/Public Policy Polling survey about who thinks violence against the current American government is justified, the "Countdown" host highlighted the Tea Party's number while conveniently ignoring demographic groups that responded at an equal or higher rate (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Monday, conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt hosted Politico.com editor John Harris to discuss Politico's coverage of the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Hewitt charged that Politico's reporting - both on the Tucson massacre and in general - has been driven hard to the left in recent years. Here's full audio of the exchange, via Breitbart.tv:
New York Times media reporters Jeremy Peters and Brian Stelter sounded a little defensive in Monday’s Business section story on the political blame game that immediately followed the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six others in Tucson. The confusing headline: “After Tucson, Blanket Accusations Leave Much to Interpretation.”
For every action in politics today, there’s an overwhelming and opposite reaction.
Last week, the reaction came from conservative politicians who bridled at suggestions in the media that Jared L. Loughner may have been influenced by right-wing rhetoric and talk radio when he killed six people and gravely wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords in a rampage on Jan. 8 in Tucson. In her video address on Wednesday, Sarah Palin said that journalists and pundits should not manufacture “a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn.”
The question left unanswered: which journalists and pundits?
Keith Olbermann started his Special Comment Monday boasting that he was the only political commentator in America that has "expressed the slightest introspection, the slightest self-awareness, the slightest remorse, the slightest ownership of the existence" of violent rhetoric in the nation.
Roughly twelve minutes later, the "Countdown" host concluded his nonsensical blathering by stating, "In an actual open and shut slam dunk case in which a partisan of the Right attempted to kill one of the Left, the Right would blame the victim" (video follows with transcript and loads of commentary):
“The country is pretty unified behind the idea that President Obama found the right words, the right tone at the right time,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos announced Monday night in touting how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found “78 percent approve of how he handled” the Tucson shooting, in contrast to Sarah Palin, “not so much, only 30 percent approve of her response.”
When Stephanopoulos noted “the support for stricter gun control has dropped over the last few years,” anchor Diane Sawyer expressed astonishment: “Stricter has dropped?” Instead of detailing that trend, Stephanopoulos concentrated on some specific policies with overwhelming support.
The ABC duo ignored how their poll advanced a false media narrative in asking: “As you may know, a gunman shot a U.S. Congress member and 18 other people in Arizona late last week. Is it your impression that the political discourse in this country did or did not contribute to this incident?” [PDF rundown of the poll]
As NewsBusters reported over the weekend, ABC News did a deplorable job of informing viewers about a death threat made by a Tucson shooting survivor to a Tea Partier at the taping of a town hall event aired on Sunday's "This Week."
On Monday, Glenn Beck and his radio crew savaged Christiane Amanpour for her involvement in this fiasco while concluding, "That lack of truth is why places like ABC will eventually just go out of business and be looking for a handout from the government" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As most of the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day while attempting to move passed the tragic events in Tucson, CNBC's Donny Deutsch decided to ask Reverend Al Sharpton if Arizona should secede from the union.
Such happened on Monday's "Morning Joe" as the crew discussed gun laws in the wake of the shootings (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Long past the time when it was debunked that Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner might have been motivated by talk radio or TV, NPR was still entertaining the "vitriol" attack line, as anchor Scott Simon interviewed liberal St. Petersburg Times TV critic Eric Deggans on Saturday morning's Weekend Edition. Simon even bizarrely claimed that this kind of violence didn't happen when "63 million people watched Walter Cronkite every night."
First, that exaggerates Cronkite's nightly audience (it's more likely the networks might have attracted 63 million between the three of them). But does Simon really believe that in the Sixties and Seventies, there was never a mass shooting with six deaths in America? Or say, a Jonestown mass suicide of Americans (preceded by a congressman being shot there)? Or the shootings of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, George Wallace, or two attempts at Gerald Ford? Facts were being mangled:
SIMON: People have observed over the past few years, for example, that, you know, this just didn't happen when 63 million people watched Walter Cronkite every night. But I don't know, hasn't colorful and even intemperate speech been a part of politics and journalism?
NewsBusters asked Saturday if ABC's "This Week" would fully report a Tucson shooting survivor issuing a death threat to a Tea Party leader at a special town hall meeting taped earlier that day.
Although host Christiane Amanpour, in a brief, 30 second after-thought at the close of Sunday's program, told viewers J. Eric Fuller's threat was directed at a Tea Party member, she omitted Fuller saying "You're dead" to Trent Humphries (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The New York Times simply can’t help themselves. They simply cannot leave their opinions out of supposedly objective pieces of journalism. Which begs the question, if the bulk of the articles contain this type of reporting, why does the Times even bother having a separate opinion section?
In a profile piece on Tucson gunman Jared Loughner titled, Looking Behind the Mug-Shot Grin of an Accused Killer, the Times takes two separate occasions to toss in a casual link to ‘right-wing groups’ (h/t Byron York).
The first cheap shot shows up on the first page of a seven page profile:
He became an echo chamber for stray ideas, amplifying, for example, certain grandiose tenets of a number of extremist right-wing groups — including the need for a new money system and the government’s mind-manipulation of the masses through language.
The second instance addresses the currency issue and casts blame on the right as well :
The Greek playwright Euripides said you can judge a man by the company he keeps.
On Friday, roughly 24 hours before J. Eric Fuller was going to be arrested for publicly threatening the life of a Tea Party leader at an ABC News town hall meeting, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann praised him via Twitter:
On the evening of the tragic shootings in Tucson, Fox News's Geraldo Rivera, like so many other liberal media members, went out of his way to connect the event to the Tea Party.
Seven days later, the host of "Geraldo at Large" told his viewers, "There was a very public death threat today in Tucson that prompted police action. Ironically, it came from a hard-core liberal" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As NewsBusters previously reported, a survivor of last week's Tucson shootings issued a death threat to a Tea Party member Saturday in the middle of a taping for a town hall meeting to be aired on ABC's "This Week."
For some reason, ABC World News Saturday in its report about the gathering chose to omit the seriousness of the threat and that it was made to a Tea Partier (video follows courtesy Mark Finkelstein with transcript and commentary):
Greg Gutfeld on Saturday went after "hacks with an axe to grind" whose "rush to judgment" concerning last Saturday's shootings in Tucsocn "revealed the media's not so secret biases towards certain political personalities and movements."
Offering his opinion at the end of "Fox News Watch," the "Red Eye" host specifically named Jane Fonda, Paul Krugman, and "the creeps at Daily Kos" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Fox News Watch panelists on Saturday named some villains concerning last week's tragedy in Tucson.
Aside from the shooter himself, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos were mentioned for their terrible coverage of this awful event (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Media outlet after media outlet panned Sarah Palin's video response to last Saturday's Tucson shootings with some going so far as claiming it ended any chance she might have of becoming president assuming that's even her goal.
Destroying this myth was a new poll published by Media Curves that actually found Americans seeing the former Alaska governor as more likeable, sincere, and believable after watching her speech:
During an impromptu reunion of CNN's "Crossfire" Friday, Pat Buchanan told his old sparring partner Bill Press, "You’ve got to get beyond being a fringe talk show host."
In the middle of a very heated debate on MSNBC's "The Ed Show," Buchanan strongly cautioned the host and his liberal guest, "I think this last week, there’s been a climate of hatred built up against [Sarah Palin] who did nothing and I tell you, if she does run for president of the United States, I pray to the lord she’s given secret service protection from day one" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The liberal media wasted no time in trying to exploit the shooting in Tucson, Arizona by blaming Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and conservatives in general for creating a "culture of violence" that led to the tragedy. Here is a video compilation of journalists and pundits promoting the meme in the hours and days that followed.
Mark Shields on Friday actually asked Charles Krauthammer if Sarah Palin unintentionally made last Saturday's shootings about herself and not the tragic event.
Krauthammer not only set the substitute host of PBS's "Inside Washington" straight, but also called for an apology from all those that shamefully tied the former Alaska governor to this awful tragedy (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Two particularly peculiar bits of reasoning Friday night from Bill Maher on the season premiere of his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, starting with his bizarre explanation for why Jared Lee Loughner was able to commit mass murder. After panelist Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large for Thomson Reuters, trumped how her native Canada has “universal health care,” Maher jumped in to assert:
Because we don't have government health care, that's one reason why a crazy person gets a gun because, you know what, it’s hard for a crazy person to get a job, so therefore it’s hard for them to get heath care in a country that doesn’t have government- (Audio: MP3 clip)
The conversation moved on and Maher never offered any further explanation, if there could even have been any which made any sense.
Within minutes of the news breaking that Jared Lee Loughner had killed six and wounded 12 in a rampage outside a Tucson safeway store, including a critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the news media immediately leapt to the conclusion that the harsh tone of our political discourse – led by conservative talk radio -- surely must be to blame.
That narrative turned out to be hogwash, but another one has emerged during the investigation into Loughner’s psyche, yet virtually no one wants to discuss it. Was the shooter inspired by the entertainment media?
Why would violent movies or music be left out of the rush to judgment? Perhaps it’s because pop-culture defenders never tire of arguing that no one can blame the “artists” – be they musicians, movie-makers or video-game manufacturers – for youth violence. So it becomes awkward, to say the least, that everyone’s discussing the need to curb a national appetite for angry rhetoric, when it was disturbing music and movies that were influencing Loughner’s mind, and they are ignored.
More and more, the idea that Bill Maher has his own television show to advance his insane theories should be worrisome to right-thinking Americans.
Case in point: during the first installment of the new season of "Real Time" on HBO, Maher actually said with a straight face, "Because we don't have government healthcare, that's one reason why a crazy person gets a gun" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
I agree with President Obama. When it comes to politicizing random violence, he and his supporters have been "far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than" they do. Recognition is the first step toward reconciliation. It's time to recognize the poisonous pervasiveness of the Blame Righty meme.
For the past two years, Democratic officials, liberal activists and journalists have jumped to libelous conclusions about individual shooting sprees committed by mentally unstable loners with incoherent delusions all over the ideological map. The White House now pledges to swear off "pointing fingers or assigning blame." Alas, the Obama administration's political and media foot soldiers have proved themselves incapable of such restraint.
President Obama is receiving uniform praise for his memorial remarks in Tucson, Ariz. Even conservatives are saying he hit the right notes, substantively and tonally. I agree, with a few qualifiers and gentle cautions.
Obama was eloquent in his tribute to the victims and appropriately acknowledged that "none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack ... or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind."
More importantly, he said: "But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. ... Let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy; it did not."