CNN's Howard Kurtz and the San Francisco Chronicle's Debra Saunders did their best to give cover to Sarah Palin for her crosshairs map targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It's pretty bad when even Politico hack Roger Simon has had enough of your nonsense. As he rightfully pointed out, Palin doesn't have to be directly responsible for what happened with this shooting to have a conversation about the violent political rhetoric coming from her and the rest of the right wing noise machine in America and the fact that it needs to stop.
Edit: A tweet by Howard Kurtz on Saturday.
KURTZ: You just saw that montage, Roger Simon, and you can't make a worse mistake than that, to declare a member of Congress dead. And I find it disappointing, because we've been through so many stores like that, where fragmentary information turns out to be wrong.
SIMON: Well, you're always going to get certain things wrong on these stories. The number of dead always climbs and shrinks, and climbs again.
I remember as a young school kid hearing that Vice President Johnson had been shot and President Kennedy had been wounded. That got flipped around. The fact is, we go with what we hear. That's often wrong.
KURTZ: But why not wait? Look, we understand it's happening, you're seeing sort of news gathering in its roughest and rawest form. Why not wait until it's confirmed. If she was dead, we would have found out 20 minutes later. [...]
KURTZ: And on that point, Debra Saunders, a couple of hours after this tragic shooting, even as we weren't sure who was alive and who was dead, I Googled "Gabrielle Giffords" and "Sarah Palin." And lots of stories and blog posts came up talking about Sarah Palin, 10 months ago, putting up a map of the Democrats she wanted defeated, and using crosshairs, gun sites, to represent those targets, and, of course, she used the rhetoric about "Don't retreat, reload."
And in a way that I found to be -- you know, first of all, I guess how about a decent interval? The victims were still being rushed to surgery. But I also felt like, was it fair to bring her into something that she had nothing to do with?
SAUNDERS: Well, it was ideological opportunism. I mean, it's very human, when something like this happens, you want the villain to be the person you hate. And so a lot of people rushed to do that.
You know, I've got to tell you, I'm a conservative. When I heard this story, my first thought was, oh, no, it's a right-wing nut with a gun. And I think that these stories about the Tea Party being a ticking time bomb are crap. I find them offensive, but we know that there are extremists.
KURTZ: But you said, oh, no, it's a right-wing nut with a gun, because you feared that then anybody on the right would, by implication, be blamed for this shooting?
SAUNDERS: No. Because I feared it was true. I mean, that was my first thought.
KURTZ: And let's say it was true. Let's say it was true.
SAUNDERS: But you know, that's not our job.
KURTZ: Hold on. Let's say it was a right-wing nut with a gun. It does seem to have been a nut, a guy -- a 22-year-old kid whose political ramblings are utterly incoherent.
But so why should anyone else be blamed if it was a right-wing nut? Which is was not, by the way.
SAUNDERS: No, it wasn't. And I guess -- I mean, we know that there are extremists and we know that parties have to deal with the extremists on their side.
But I also, of course -- I mean, as somebody in the business -- and let's -- six people are dead. This is an awful tragedy. A little girl who just got on the student council shot. So this is just -- this is not a political event.
KURTZ: It's awful.
SAUNDERS: Let's get that -- it's just horrible.
But I also -- as an opinion person, I could just see myself getting sucked into this thing where a bunch of people -- and there were some people. There were people in the media with no impulse control. People like Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman, who just, boom, started hitting Sarah Palin and, boom, started hitting the right before the facts were in.
You know, it's our job to first -- it's not our job to give our first impulses, because they are often wrong.
KURTZ: They're often wrong. Let me get --
SAUNDERS: It's our job to get the facts.
SIMON: Let me give you my second and third impulse then.
SIMON: I'm not ready to surrender the point that what Sarah Palin did by putting crosshairs over congressional districts was a good and innocent thing to do.
KURTZ: No, it was a dumb thing to do.
SIMON: More than dumb.
SIMON: More than dumb.
SIMON: In fact, Representative Giffords complained at the time that these ads went up.
KURTZ: Right. We have that tape.
SIMON: Because they were bad things to do, and that they degraded the political culture in America.
KURTZ: OK. [...]
PAGE: Well, I think for one thing, as Roger mentioned, this is not a new issue. This -- ever since Sarah Palin first posted those pictures with the crosshairs, there were complaints about them. And right now I think if the situation were politically reversed, if a liberal was using this kind of rhetoric about a conservative, rest assured, you would hear from the conservative camp complaints.
KURTZ: But that would be just as wrong.
PAGE: That said, I'm not going to jump to conclusions about any particular incident like this one as to what motivated this young man. He obviously does show signs of being unhinged. And it's a little too easy to ascribe political motive to that.
KURTZ: It's a little to easy.
But Roger, you disagree.
PAGE: At the same time though, the atmosphere has gotten too volatile. The rhetoric has gotten too volatile. We need to tone it down.
SIMON: With all respect, Clarence -- and you know I respect you -- what is too easy to do is to ignore the Sarah Palin ads and say we can't know that these ads caused the killing. Absolutely true. We can't know it, we'll never know it.
SAUNDERS: No, no, no. Do not do this. Do not --
SIMON: But then say, therefore, such ads do not require our criticism, do not require us to speak out against them, when this wasn't called for.
KURTZ: At the time, yes, but it's 10 months later.
Debra, let me get you in here because you obviously feel strongly.
SAUNDERS: Yes. Don't cheapen this whole thing. Don't do this yet. We don't know. Let's just -- this is a horrible, horrible tragedy, outrage, awful thing.
You know, what Sarah Palin did, the target stuff, Howie, you wrote about this. It's something campaigns do. It's sort of like an act of guilt, that she erased it. But, you know, this isn't about Sarah Palin.
This is about these six people. This is about a congresswoman who goes out and tries to talk to her constituents and is killed -- I'm sorry -- I made the mistake -- is shot. And don't cheapen this by trying to make it what you want it to be ideologically.
Maybe we'll find out that's the case later, but this is just not the time for it. It's wrong, and you shouldn't do that, Roger.
SIMON: This isn't about cheapening the deaths of those unfortunate people and the woundings of the others. This is about whether we collectively, as the news media, who has a big bullhorn, speak out against the use of such images of targets on people's faces. They didn't use faces, they used congressional districts.
You can't tell me we should say, oh, I'm not going to complain about that because it cheapens the death of those children. It doesn't cheapen it. It gives it meaning of some kind.
SAUNDERS: It has nothing to do with it. But, Roger, it has nothing to do with it as far as we know. If we find out something later, fine. But we don't know that there is any nexus.
KURTZ: We will continue this debate in a couple of moments.
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