While the accusations sometimes go too far - there's no evidence that either Palin or Beck inspired the Tucson suspect - the heat is well deserved. Both are finally being held to account for recklessly playing with violent images in a way that is bound to incite the unstable. In Beck's case, as I reported last year, it already has - repeatedly.
Milbank defended his column and pointed out that yes it is fair to hold these people accountable for their nasty rhetoric and that in Beck's case there's a direct line to the people he's incited.
KURTZ: Let me go back to Dana Milbank, because I want to bring up a column you that wrote this week in "The Washington Post."
You wrote about, among others, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. You mentioned that that drives traffic and ratings. And undoubtedly it does. They're both of course on Fox.
And you said two things. You said, one, "There's no evidence that they inspired the Tucson gunman." And then you said, and I'm quoting here, "Both are being finally held to account for recklessly playing with violent images in a way that is bound to incite the unstable."
"Bound to incite the unstable." You're connecting the dots between their rhetoric and violence.
MILBANK: Well, between violence, but not in this case, the Loughner case. What I -- in a sense, it's rough justice. I think it is very important that people are held to account for this nasty rhetoric that is causing -- in Glenn Beck's case, I've documented a few cases in which it's led a crazy person to snap in the opinion of --
KURTZ: Well, wait a minute. Hold on, Dana. You just used the verb "led." There was a case -- we talked about this last time you were on -- where somebody wounded two California police officers who was very angry --
MILBANK: And said he was driven to do so by what he heard from Glenn Beck.
KURTZ: OK. So it's fair to hold a talk show host responsible for what some violent or perhaps unbalanced person does because they like what this person says on the airwaves?
MILBANK: Yes, Howie, in the aggregate. I don't think -- you can't say in every individual case.
You know, who knows what any one crazy person is going to do? But the problem is there's developing a pattern here.
That's why I'm saying yes, I think it's irresponsible, and I think it's a bit of a straw man, that people are claiming that, you know, Beck and Palin are being blamed. Mostly, people are saying they're not being blamed for this particular incident. They are being blamed, as well as some on the left should be blamed, for inciting people generally.
It probably -- we don't know for sure. It probably wasn't a driver in this case, but it's a driver in so many other cases. And I agree with David that you need to look out for the effect your words are having on the sane people. But I think you also need to worry about that fraction of one percent who just might be driven over the edge.