NBC's Mitchell: 'There's No Direct Link' to Palin in Giffords Shooting 'As Far As Investigators Know'

NBC's Andrea Mitchell just can't let go of the media spin that political rhetoric, specially from conservatives like Sarah Palin, is somehow partly to blame for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords as on Tuesday's Today show, she questioned if Palin's use of crosshairs on her Web site to target Democratic districts was "inflammatory?" Mitchell couldn't even report that "There is no direct link" from Palin to the shooting suspect Jared Loughner without adding, "as far as investigators know."

Mitchell actually began her story airing a soundbite from outer space with Giffords' brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, linking political rhetoric to the attack on Giffords:

ANDREA MITCHELL: From the space station, Gabrielle Gifford's brother-in-law, her husband's twin, fellow astronaut Scott Kelly.

SCOTT KELLY: These days we're constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.

While Mitchell did eventually allow conservatives to have their say, as she aired soundbites from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and David Frum, she finished her piece with words from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Giffords, that left the impression harsh discourse was to blame for the tragedy.

MITCHELL: In Abu Dhabi, Hillary Clinton on the senselessness of it all.

HILLARY CLINTON: A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member was just shot by an extremist in our country. The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that's not who we are.

MITCHELL: And Gabrielle Giffords may have expressed it best the day before she was shot when she emailed a Republican friend, who had lost his election, saying "I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. We need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."

The following is a complete transcript of the Mitchell story as it was aired on the January 11 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And now the political fallout tied this tragedy. Sarah Palin is facing criticism over the use of rifle crosshairs on a map targeting certain districts in last year's election, including Congresswoman Giffords. NBC's Andrea Mitchell is in Washington with the latest on that. Andrea, good morning.

[On screen headline: "Crosshairs Controversy, Could This Be A Defining Moment For Sarah Palin?"]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Meredith. The moment of silence that President Obama ordered was perhaps the only silence as angry voices on the left and the right fought over what led to the tragedy in Arizona, except for a plea from outer space for less violence here on Earth.

SCOTT KELLY, ASTRONAUT: As I look out the window and see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately it is not.

MITCHELL: From the space station, Gabrielle Gifford's brother-in-law, her husband's twin, fellow astronaut Scott Kelly.

KELLY: These days we're constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.

MITCHELL: Back on Earth the loud voices only got louder.


GLENN BECK: They' desperately using every opportunity to try to convince you, that somehow or another Sarah Palin is dangerous. On TV and radio, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck rushed to Sarah Palin's defense as she became the center of a national debate over her campaign map last year, targeting Gabrielle Gifford's district and 19 others with crosshairs.

SARAH PALIN: We know violence isn't the answer. When we take up our arms, we're talking about our vote.

MITCHELL: Was her gun imagery inflammatory? There is no direct link to this suspect, as far as investigators know. Palin refused interview requests but emailed Beck to say-

GLENN BECK READING PALIN EMAIL: Our children will not have peace, if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence.

MITCHELL: Fair or not, one Republican says the criticism could create a defining moment for Palin.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: You can hunker down and you can say, "It's not my fault." And of course she's right, it's not her fault. Or you can be bigger than that. You can go out and, and meet the challenge and you can be the leader that Americans want to see.

MITCHELL: What started as a squall turned into a storm.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: It really is depraved. Sad tragedies where people die are seen first as moments of political opportunity for Democrats.

MITCHELL: The Internet also lit up with criticism of the Tucson sheriff for speaking out against vitriolic speech.

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences.

MITCHELL: In Abu Dhabi, Hillary Clinton on the senselessness of it all.

HILLARY CLINTON: A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member was just shot by an extremist in our country. The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that's not who we are.

MITCHELL: And Gabrielle Giffords may have expressed it best the day before she was shot when she emailed a Republican friend, who had lost his election, saying "I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. We need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down." Meredith?

VIEIRA: Andrea Mitchell in Washington for us this morning. Thank you Andrea.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.