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Politics from the Nation's Capital

Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin after Arizona shootings

On November 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at a troop readiness center in Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 13 people.  Within hours of the killings, the world knew that Hasan reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar!" before he began shooting, visited websites associated with Islamist violence, wrote Internet postings justifying Muslim suicide bombings, considered U.S. forces his enemy, opposed American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as wars on Islam, and told a neighbor shortly before the shootings that he was going "to do good work for God."  There was ample evidence, in other words, that the Ft. Hood attack was an act of Islamist violence.

Nevertheless, public officials, journalists, and commentators were quick to caution that the public should not "jump to conclusions" about Hasan's motive.  CNN, in particular, became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care.

"The important thing is for everyone not to jump to conclusions," said retired Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN the night of the shootings.

"We cannot jump to conclusions," said CNN's Jane Velez-Mitchell that same evening. "We have to make sure that we do not jump to any conclusions whatsoever."

"I'm on Pentagon chat room," said former CIA operative Robert Baer on CNN, also the night of the shooting.  "Right now, there's messages going back and forth, saying do not jump to the conclusion this had anything to do with Islam."

The next day, President Obama underscored the rapidly-forming conventional wisdom when he told the country, "I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts."  In the days that followed, CNN jouralists and guests repeatedly echoed the president's remarks.

"We can't jump to conclusions," Army Gen. George Casey said on CNN November 8.  The next day, political analyst Mark Halperin urged a "transparent" investigation into the shootings "so the American people don't jump to conclusions."  And when Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Ft. Hood attack was terrorism, CNN's John Roberts was quick to intervene.  "Now, President Obama has asked people to be very cautious here and to not jump to conclusions," Roberts said to Hoekstra.  "By saying that you believe this is an act of terror, are you jumping to a conclusion?"

Fast forward a little more than a year, to January 8, 2011.  In Tucson, Arizona, a 22 year-old man named Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a political event, gravely wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing a federal judge and five others, and wounding 18.  In the hours after the attack, little was known about Loughner beyond some bizarre and largely incomprehensible YouTube postings that, if anything, suggested he was mentally ill.  Yet the network that had shown such caution in discussing the Ft. Hood shootings openly discussed the possibility that Loughner was inspired to violence by…Sarah Palin.  Although there is no evidence that Loughner was in any way influenced by Palin, CNN was filled with speculation about the former Alaska governor.

After reporting that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik had condemned what Dupnik called "the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government," CNN's Wolf Blitzer turned to congressional reporter Jessica Yellin for analysis.  The sheriff "singled out some of the political rhetoric, as you point out, in creating the environment that allowed this kind of instance to happen," Yellin told Blitzer.  "Even though, as you point out, this suspect is not cooperating with investigators, so we don't know the motive.  President Obama also delivered that message, saying it's partly the political rhetoric that led to this.  So that's why we want to bring up one of the themes that's burning up the social media right now.  On Twitter and Facebook, there is a lot of talk, in particular, about Sarah Palin.  As you might recall, back in March of last year, when the health care vote was coming to the floor of the House and this was all heating up, Palin tweeted out a message on Twitter saying 'common sense conservatives, don't retreat -- instead reload.'  And she referred folks to her Facebook page.  On that Facebook page was a list of Democratic members she was putting in crosshairs, and Gabrielle Giffords was one of those in the crosshairs."

Yellin noted that Palin had "posted a statement on Facebook saying that 'my sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona.  On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families and for peace and justice.'"  Yellin continued: "And I should point out that Republican leaders in Washington have said that this is not a partisan issue, this is about violence, as have some tea party groups.  But clearly this is a moment to talk about our political rhetoric."

"It certainly is," Blitzer agreed.  "But the question is, is there any evidence that the suspected shooter in this particular case was a Sarah Palin fan, read Sarah Palin's website, was a member on Facebook, watched her tweets, or anything like that?"

"None at all," Yellin responded.  "And there is no evidence that this was even inspired by rage over health care, broadly.  So there is no overt connection between Sarah Palin, health care, and the [shootings]."

Indeed, there is no "overt" or any other sort of connection between Loughner and Palin. If such evidence came to light, it would certainly be news.  But without that evidence, and after a brief caveat, the CNN group went back to discussing the theory that Loughner acted out of rage inspired by Palin and other Republicans.  Conclusions were jumped to all around.

And it wasn't just CNN.  Other media outlets were also filled with speculation about the attack and pronouncements on the state of American political rhetoric.  What a markedly different situation from 15 months earlier when, in the face of actual evidence that Maj. Hasan was inspired by Islamist convictions, many media commentators sought to be voices of caution. Where was that caution after the shootings in Arizona?

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Maybe I'm not understanding you, but you say that Obama, Holder, and the FBI urged caution after the Fort Hood shootings. You also say CNN covered that people should be cautious in not jumping to conclusions. Then, you say that a local sheriff in this case said it was political vitriol, but that CNN is reporting there are no political connections that the shooter cites. Now, despite what CNN reported, the only quotes from Obama are expressions of condolences.

The headline here is "Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin." However, the text of your editorial is that different people are now blaming Palin, and the journalists are saying there is no evidence of that connection. Wouldn't the more appropriate headline from the same analysis you give be, "Mainstream Media Resists Turning Shooting Political?"

You never mention any instances of other media outlets. You never mention how exactly CNN was linking the shooter with right wing causes. You just assert without evidence. The only evidence you present refutes your very points.

So, I'm confused.

Fromks, the article says that "congressional reporter Jessica Yellin" says that this is "...clearly this is a moment to talk about our political rhetoric."

Yesterday, I read an entire AP article talking about how (if) political rhetoric was the background of the shooting. It was a sleazy article.

Maybe you're confused because your reading comprehension is lacking. Apparently, you missed this part:

"But without that evidence, and after a brief caveat, the CNN group went back to discussing the theory that Loughner acted out of rage inspired by Palin and other Republicans. Conclusions were jumped to all around."

So, yeah, you're "not understanding" him.

Yes, you are confused. You could have saved yourself some time and embarrassment by thoroughly reading the column BEFORE you commented on it.

"So I'm confused". Aren't you clever? In the words of Church Lady "Isn't that special"?

I have read many comments on other sites from the far left. They are irrational and some are as delusional as the shooter's rants on youtube.

When we try to carry on a conversation with them, it's always Palin, Rush, Beck, Fox News, and now they are posting the sponsors of Fox.

No one knows the motives of the shooter, but we do know he is mentally unstable, for all we know this might have been a suicide by cop!

I do not understand the far left, they won't join into a discussion, they just place blame on anyone and anything, and not the shooter!

I would hate to go through life like that, always blaming someone else and always hating someone!

Any conversation concerning politics never happens with them, all they can do is repeat the mantra they are told to say!

Do not assume that the Left wants a conversation and it will start to make sense. Being part of the Left replaces religion for many (if not most) of the "progressives". Since it is a religion, not only are all things explained by the inconsistent metaphysics of the religion but it also cannot be challenged without a violent or nearly violent response.

Instead of trying to have a conversation, induce the Left to that foaming at the mouth incoherence they so readily show in order to convince the vast number of Americans who really want to be just left alone that these people cannot be trusted. A century of death and misery is forgotten too quickly--heck, we have already forgotten the incompetence of Jimmy Carter!

So far the only information we have on the guy is that his classmate said he's to the Left, Very Libereal.

Since this news came out, the tsunami of Leftist disinformation slowed a little.

I guess many journalists have rather selective memory, or perhaps are willfully ignorant. As Verum Serum shows (link below), the Democrats have used similar maps showing political targets at least twice.

I don't think the shooter had any serious political motives. He was plainly a paranoid schizophrenic in need of treatment.


Let the left continue to blame the Tea Party. Those rants will only continue to drive more and more of the American people into our ranks.

HUH? Excuse Me? When you make statements in public like I'd like to shoot her from an helicopter and/or

Mrs Palin released a 'target list' of Democrats she wanted to see unseated in the November mid-term elections. Mrs Giffords was on the list. She told her followers 'Don't retreat - instead, RELOAD!'

her inflammatory words and use of a "cross-hairs image" re: each name inciting violence. Her political career should be over and should be sued.!!

Read more:

I don't give a flying leap about tea parties and all this conservative / liberal / democrat Ms. Palin is all shades of wrong and should be held accountable for her stupidity.

As for no proof he knew Palin he has her images all over his FaceBk wall, Myspace, Youtube social networks images of her books there is plenty of proof he's a sick socio/psychopath revels in killing people and should not be allowed on the street...he kills people including a 9 year old child.

Comments like this concern me because they seem reminiscent of the shooter's thought processes. Things are made up on the fly like the shooting from a helicopter quote and strained connection between cause and effect in order to perpetuate some sort of blood libel. No attempt at any sort of critical thought process like realising that anyone could create a facebook account in his name and his real facebook account has no references to Palin.

The unstable mind's message? "Sarah Palin causes violence and must be stopped!"

First, Byron excellent article. Thank you for writing it. Indeed, where was the caution? The coverage all the way from Fox News (Smith and Geraldo) to CNN was reckless and pathetic.

Second, yo Darcy, it would be fantastic if you could provide us with some information about where your where you reside because your comments are making me nervous and someone needs to keep an eye on you. Advice for you, please turn off MSNBC (particularly Keith Olbermann), breathe, and start using the few brain cells you have left.

Let's please continue to pray for everyone who was involved, for the congresswoman's recovery and for the safety of those being wrongfully blamed for this tragedy.

Palin never said she wanted to shoot anyone from a helicopter. Nor was Palin on his facebook or myspace. Why do liberal whackjobs need to make up everything?

The Left is determined to silence Right Wing speech. I've got a new post tracking violent Leftist rhetoric back through some earlier controversies on my blog, Love to hear everybody's view.

Darcy you said:"As for no proof he knew Palin he has her images all over his FaceBk wall, Myspace, Youtube social networks images of her books"

Can you please provide proof of this. I've seen his youtube channel and there are no images or mention of Palin. His myspace page was taken down minutes after he was identified as the shooter , however someone has posted a screen shot of the page. Again no mention of Palin. As for facebook there appears to be no page but chances are it was taken down if he even had one.

As for the shooter he was very anti-religion. Can you say the same for Palin?

We have to remember that the left has a serious aversion to personal accountability. No individual is responsible for his/her own actions, but there is always a root cause or group membership behind such actions. I remember vividly after the recent Palm Beach, FL shooting/suicide that even the most far-right bloggers and journalists chalked it up not to the man's associations but to the sick individual responsible. Not so on the left. We are all just members of some larger group, unable to act individually, and so individual actions implicate anyone even loosely associated with the individual. And so his use of the word "unconstitutional" in his incoherent ramblings naturally implicates anyone in favor of limited government, lower taxes, etc. I guess by using their own logic, we can attribute the recent slaying of military recruiters to the entire anti-war movement as well. Something tells me they already have their rationalizations ready as to why their logic only works one way.

Blaming extreme violence on conservatives is standard lefty operating procedure. Bloomberg speculates that the Times Square bomber is a tea party member. Back in '95 Pres. Clinton said that extreme rhetoric by Rush and others in "right wing talk radio" prompted Timothy McVey to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building. Jumping to conclusions is perfectly acceptable to the left when it comes to smearing their enemies.

For those who are concerned about the "crosshairs targeting of Giffords" supposedly used by Palin, please Google Unicode 2316. You will find that this particular Unicode symbol, intended for use with geographic presentations, has nothing to do with firearms and telescopic sights.

For the trolls, don't let the facts dissuade you from your holy jihad against Palin and the rest of the "right".

I have to state up front that I am a fiscally conservative, socially liberal independent voter, and that I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats in the past. I don't normally comment, but the myopic views and comments left by the right-wing/libertarian/Republicans to this poorly written article have motivated me to point out some facts, and see what some of you have to say in defense of your tea party leaders and their inflamed rhetoric.

How do you defend Sharon Angles statement re "2nd Amendment Rememdies": "I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
~Sharon Angle

Or, how about this "clearly non-violent inducing statement" (sic) from one of your "leaders": ''Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.''
—Tea Party-backed Texas GOP congressional candidate Stephen Broden

And finally, a great statement from the Far Rights posterboy Glenn: ''I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out.''
—Glenn Beck, May 17, 2005

Justify away wingnuts. Signed a concerned American, who has an advanced degree, owns his own business, pays taxes at the highest federal rate, and who voted for John McCain in 2000.


Dear RationalAmerican,

First, you've failed to point out anything significant about Mr. York's column to support your assertion that it is "poorly written". However, I'll digress into your 3 points for a moment, ignoring anything relevant to the column.

1. If you'll recall Sharron Angle was running against Harry Reid. "Taking out" Mr. Reid meant nothing more than beating him politically. Someone could infer differently, but that would be adding meaning when none was intended. Unless I'm simply unaware of her attempts to have him killed...

2. Some people believe very strongly in defending their freedom, maybe even more than you or I do. Does that mean I condone violence because I don't advocate shutting down someone else's First Amendment rights? No. Do I condone violent action in that case? I'd hope not, but I hope there's a middle ground where non-violent advocacy would protect my freedoms. What if that failed? Willing to sit idly by? Hmmm...Or would you rather suppress his First Amendment rights yourself and/or have the state do it? That's not very socially liberal of you.

3. You're bringing up a personal grudge by one individual against another. I wouldn't want either one at my dinner table. Do you really think Mr. Beck wants to kill Mr. Moore? He must just be really bad at it then. Or maybe he was just a radio guy trying to boost his ratings and used inflammatory language to accomplish it. Howard Stern would be proud.

I'm not sure what you believe these to be "examples" of. They seem like disjointed quotes that vaguely resemble a point somewhere regarding violence, but I fail to see much of a link between the three. I also don't see how it pertains to the gunman. How about getting back to the tragedy at hand and how the lack of civil discourse about our country's issues has contributed mightily to it? Thanks.

Since you were keen to point out your history, I'll submit that I'm not a member of the tea party nor have I even been to a rally. I just don't get your point and frankly don't see what it has to do with the price of tea in China. This is a tragedy which all Americans should be plainly disgusted. York's point, with which I agree, is that the media treated the Hasan case with kid gloves and this one as if it were Palin-inspired. It was beyond despicable. And note: I'm not much of a Palin fan, and think she'd fail spectacularly as a Presidential candidate.

I agree with you that such comments should not be made (I am ssuming they are real - many quotes from leftwing sites turn out to be fictional, such as Reagan's supposed misquote in his SOU speech).
But I wonder why you don't bother to list the same sort of comments from leftwingers? There are a great many to choose from. For starters, how about the teacher's union comments about having Christie killed? Or the movie made about assassinating Bush?

if anyone wants to talk about political affiliations, then why no mention of the crazed shooter's affinity for the communist manifesto and free college tuition rather than darkly hinting that, somehow and without a shred of evidence, this act was motivated by the tea party or, of course, palin who is the media's favorite, all-purpose punching bag ? CNN "news" has been the most guilty of this politically-motivated warping of the facts in this event... and other outlets follow suit.

If the left wing news media in this country wants to tone down the political rehetoric, they should start by pointing out the lies and the hypocrisy in the rhetoric of politicians like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama.

But the first thing all you right wing people thought of was, "Oh crud, this was probably some right wing terrorist, and now the left is going to blame us" wasn't it? The NY Times says the Tucson Tea Parties scoured their membership looking for the guy's name. How many left wing or center organizations even glanced at their membership rolls the way those on the right had to?

No, the first thing we all thought was, "Damn, another deranged psycho opens fire on a politician and now the left is going to try to blame us again." Which as you see is exactly what happened. Can we call it or what?

But your last two sentences are telling (if true). The local tea party groups checked to see if he was one of theirs, but the lefty groups ("center" groups are just lefty groups trying to hide, usually) couldn't even be bothered to check. Which side sounds concerned about the problem, and which side sounds like it's trying to use the tragedy for political gain?


And you somehow think that's a pithy rejoinder, eh?

True - as in NOT pithy but a fool's rejoinder.

"How many left wing or center organizations even glanced at their membership rolls the way those on the right had to?"

Not sure what the point is here, as a tragedy is a tragedy, but as it turns out maybe they should have...

I don't care who you are, taking delight in one side's perceived panic is just as wrong as those doing the panicking for the sake of politics. It would make some sense to jump to the conclusion it was a right-winger simply given that it was a Democratic representative whose life was attempted. Obviously the media (wrongly) did just that while not even reporting the Islam ties in the Hasan case when that evidence was smacking them in the face. The entire point of York's column.

The fact is, since before the nation was even founded, most of the political violence, and most of the instituting of laws designed to corrupt the ideas of the Declaration and Constitution have been the actions of the right wing. Very little good has ever been done by the right-- and very little evil has been done by the left and the center.

Hard to imagine what it must be like to be so ignorant. The hardleft is vastly more violent than the right ever was. And vastly more people have died at the hands of the left than of the right as well. Leftwing groups did not check their rolls for his name? Perhaps it is because leftwingers are so smug and lazy - just as you are by spewing complete nonsense without checking any facts.

It's difficult to imagine how you can be so delusional. You are nearly certifiable.

Byron, I apologize for using your article for a forum but it is on subject. I just read Paul Krugman's NYT column; it is a most, perhaps the most, disgraceful, shameful, despicable, unprofessional piece of public discourse I have ever seen from a reputable organization and supposedly professional person.

He doused the situation with gasoline, threw a match on it and ran. What an absolutely violence inciting coward, a despicable coward.

I just glanced over a few more of these letters.

The reason so many of us who are not part of the right suspect members of the right when these acts of political terrorism occur is because it's the right's leaders and followers who talk about Tea Parties and 2nd amendment remedies and violent overthrow of the government when you can't get your way.

The rest of us trust the political promise because we know that over time, the direction our country eventually takes is towards us. We get mad at you when you threaten our lives and the lives of our leaders, and we get frustrated when circumstances provide you with occasional victories, but we don't talk about killing people, or even think about it. That's your thing.

This is complete bull. You lefties are by far the principle purveyors of talk about violence against your opponents; you do it casually, all the time. "The rest of you" are maybe 20% of the population, and you aren't growing--the country is emphatically NOT moving toward you. Yes, you do talk about killing people. To say otherwise is just a lie.

It is true. There is no more burning of witches, slavery, or red scare-- all right wing positions at various times in U.S History. In time, there will be less racism against minorities and less anti-Islamic rhetoric.

The right is at fault for perhaps not all but certainly most that has ever been wrong with America-- and in a few decades it will no longer exist, apart from scattered remnants of not just its slave holding past but even its past as it existed in 2011. AND-- its purveyance of violence will be at least an ancillary part of the reason for its having disappeared.

I'm sorry, but you're just lying. Slavery was a Democrat thing (look it up). Burning of witches? That was a European thing; it never happened here. You may be thinking of Salem, but those "witches" were never burned. The government there was pre- anything that could be honestly called right or left. Red scare? Documents from the now-defunct Soviet Union showed that there WERE a lot of soviet agents provocateurs in the US government, and that your side was shielding and defending them.

You are completely delusional to claim that the right is at fault for most of what has ever been wrong in America. You are very nearly certifiable, my friend.

I'm amused that you have responded to this.

You really aren't making sense, you know.

Did I hear someone 2 months ago say "punish your enemies"? There are numerous interpretations that can be taken from that; just because those words were uttered by a highly visible person doesn't mean they wouldn't incite a wacko.

Hmmmmmm. Absolutely zero evidence of the little murdering creep being a conservative, tea-partier or Palin-supporter BUT the murdering little creep had the communist manifesto listed on his FB page.

Will wait for CNN to vocalize liberal/ leftist leanings of the murdering little creep.

First of all my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I have an 8 year old son who is afraid of Monsters and Ghosts and I have to tell him the only monsters to worry about are humans. The man who committed this horrible act was carried out by a Monster.
I do feel that we must always remember that in politics we have opponents but they are not our enemies. Although I did not and would not vote for President Obama he is my president and he and his family are in my prayers. He is not my enemy and in this Great Country I am allowed to not only disagree with him I am allowed to do so out loud and in a public forum.
As far as the media goes it has become increasingly difficult to get real news. We are bombarded with editorials and opinion. For every Limbaugh their is a Olberman, for every Beck there is a Maddow, Hannity a Schultz and the one thing they each have in common is they believe they are correct. We as individuals still have the power to turn them all off. What has always made America great is our differences and our ability to overcome them. Many men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice for us to continue to air our grievances. They gave their lives not for one side of the argument or the other but Both.
I hope that both sides agree that Congresswoman Giffords was representing what was expected of our elected officials, making themselves available to those who elected them.

Lots of great thoughts today. It seems to me that in a country of over 300 million people, there are always going to be a few that are full of hatred and violence. We could debate the reasons why, but that is the reality. What is important is how we deal with these people. The media in this country, and I watch news shows from across the political spectrum, the media all has its own agenda. If a crazy person wants to do something violent, they are guaranteed lots of media coverage, which is exactly what a lot of them crave, recognition. When members of the US Congress were holding meetings on the healthcare reform over the last two years, only the loudest and most outrageous people got media coverage. Any given member of Congress could have 200 people or more participating in their respective meetings, and the press would cover the one individual who was the most obnoxious and belligerent. The other 199 people were totally ignored, the thoughts and ideas they raised weren't valued. The media only valued the few extremists because it boosted their ratings and made them money. The media also feeds into many of the extremists, such as Palin and Bachman, (yes, there are extremists on both sides), and they know that they get coverage for anything they say or do. Most politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, who go to Washington to debate, discuss, and legislate, are ignored, even though they are the ones who genuinely want to do their jobs. So, instead of blaming Palin, why not put it on the heads of the media. Perhaps this is why fewer and fewer people watch the nightly news, because it is a live version of the National Enquirer Newspaper.

I wonder how long it will take the MSM to make this a back page story, now that is obvious that the murderer is an insane, leftist, nut-case?

In so far as he is dumb and crazy, he's clearly from the right wing.

Hmmm, from the evidence of your posts, you're exactly 180 degrees wrong.

Do you think the response would be different right now if an American Muslim leader had put 20 politicians on a map with crosshairs on them and one of them was shot? If so, why?

It's a good question. The thing is, the map with the cross hairs has the look of a "plan" to it. I don't think anyone really expected that Palin was directly encouraging anyone to hurt the Democrats; rather, the fear was that the right wing tends to be a place to which unstable people who believe the problems of their lives are the result of their victimization by a cabal of minorities and their white left wing allies, and such "victims" are the types most likely to strike at their perceived "victimizers."

In as much as such a map put up by a Muslim would have looked like a plan, there would have been an investigation supported by the entire body politic. The difference would have been that had the investigation shown that there was nothing more to it than a single Muslim acting alone, the left and the center would accept that that was all there was to the story, while the right would have held onto it as an excuse to blame the entire Islamic world-- and most especially, the small percentage of the American population that it was able to bully and dump on. Attacking those least in a position to defend themselves would make them a perfect target for the right.

Your "fear" is entirely in your own head. Your calumnies against everyone not on the far left are par for the course among you "progressives," and yet you try to claim that it's your opponents who are unstable and violent. Sorry, but the actual evidence shows exactly the opposite.

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