“Just the facts, ma’am,” Dragnet’s Joe Friday famously informed witnesses he interviewed. Oft-interviewed Pima County Sherriff Clarence Dupnik might adopt the catchphrase: “Save the facts, ma’am. Just the narrative.”
The narrative of right-wing rhetoric fueling accused mass-murderer Jared Lee Loughner proved so seductive to partisans that they didn’t wait for the compilation of facts, or burial of the dead, to advance their politically opportunistic story. If it helped the Democrats rebound in the wake of the Oklahoma City Bombing, why can’t this meme work for them after the attempted assassination of Democrat Gabrielle Giffords?
Not-camera shy sheriff Dupnik partly blamed “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business” for the shooting. The alleged shooter, who has remained mum, said nothing to indicate as much to the elected lawman. Dupnik subsequently acknowledged on Fox News that not facts, just his opinion, informed the statement.
If a sheriff can’t keep from editorializing, one can perhaps forgive actual editorialists for editorializing.
“We won’t know for a while exactly why the gunman identified as Jared Lee Loughner, 22, shot 18 people, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,” Joan Walsh wrote on the day of the shooting at Salon.com. She then proceeded to insinuate that Sarah Palin, Giffords’ 2010 Republican opponent Jesse Kelly, Bill O’Reilly, Sharron Angle, and Glenn Beck somehow bear responsibility for the madman’s attack.
Apparently reading from the same sheet of music, Keith Olbermann dedicated his Saturday night broadcast—MSNBC preempting a weekend prison documentary?—to self-servingly blaming his political enemies for the Tucson slaughter. Mentions of the alleged slaughterer were few. Olbermann’s Two-Minutes’ Hate culminated in a nine-minute “Special Comment.” The former Sports Center mainstay emotionally invoked the names of conservatives Sarah Palin, Jesse Kelly, Allen West, Sharon Angle, and Glenn Beck before bothering a passing mention to the actual killer around the four-minute mark. “He was not just a madman incited by a thousand daily temptations by slightly less madmen to do things they would not rationally condone,” the face of MSNBC lectured.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman divined “a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate.”
But the facts from people who actually know Jared Lee Loughner complicates the script for those casting him sight-unseen to score political points.
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