You may remember Eric Fuller -- the survivor of the Tucson massacre who fingered right-wing rhetoric for fueling the tragedy, and then a few days later was arrested for making a threatening remark at a Town Hall gathering directed at a local Tea Party leader. This, of course, made him a major target of right-wing talkers like Bill O'Reilly, who proceeded to demonize the man as a prime example of left-wing hate.
Fuller has now given a thoughtful interview to the local station in Tucson, KGUN, in which he tries to explain why he said what he did:
"Where Gabrielle Giffords was standing, when I began hearing the gunfire, I turned and looked and there was Jared [Loughner], athletically pumping out the rounds, taking aim and firing," Fuller recalled. For him, the memory of the shooting is fresh and sharp. So sharp, it got him into trouble.
He already believed guns are too easy to obtain when he became one of the shooting victims January 8th. A week later he was part of a town hall meeting sponsored by ABC News.
When Tucson Tea Party leader Trent Humphries suggested it was too soon to talk about tighter gun control, Fuller did something that got him arrested. He pointed a camera at Humphries and said, "You're dead." Now, Fuller has apologized for the perceived threat that landed him in hot water with the authorities.
"I'd like to reiterate my apology to Mr. Humphries. I really meant him no harm. However, what I was trying to do is demonstrate how very quickly within the same space of time as the click of a shutter on a camera that another person can pull a trigger and your life is over, it's done," Fuller said.
Back when this happened, Nicole suggested this might be what Fuller intended. And as she observed at the time, that's really no excuse: Even if Fuller intended no threat in his remark, two things remain obvious: A) it would be reasonable for anyone hearing that remark, especially the recipient, to interpret it as a threat; and B) it is nonetheless violent rhetoric in any event.
For people who are confronting the real-world ramifications of violent rhetoric, this sort of reaction (especially on an emotional level) is perfectly understandable -- but it is also perfectly destructive. Violent rhetoric cannot be beaten by more violent rhetoric. It can only be defused by breaking the cycle of violence, choosing words that advance the debate, as President Obama put it, "in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."
Still, given that the man was still recovering from his wounds, as Karoli pointed out, and was placed in an excruciatingly difficult situation to begin, I'd like to think most reasonable people would cut him some slack and accept his clear apologies. This, of course, necessarily excludes all the hosts, anchors and reporters at Fox News.