The left’s systematic ridicule of Sarah Palin and other conservatives following the Arizona shooting rampage reflects a deliberate campaign to “ultimately criminalize” conservative thought in America, according to media watchdog L. Brent Bozell.
Bozell’s comments in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview came as 22-year-old Jared Loughner appeared in federal court in Phoenix on Monday on charges of trying to assassinate U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. The shooting spree Saturday at a Safeway supermarket north of Tucson left six dead and 13 wounded. The judge ordered that Loughner be held without bail.
Bozell, founder and president of the conservative watchdog group Media Research Center, isn’t alone in his concern about the media coverage of the rampage.
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Top radio talker Rush Limbaugh weighed in Monday as well, saying on his show that coverage of the Arizona shooting has been a “lame, purely political attempt by the left to do what they cannot convince the American people to do, and that is support them. It’s embarrassingly, depressingly sick.”
Limbaugh added, “Half the country have been indicted for the actions of a lone, deranged individual.”
Also, CNN “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz denounced the effort to link conservative political rhetoric to the shooting as a “sickening ritual of guilt by association,” adding that “the blame game is already under way.”
Those reactions, however, did not dissuade MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., from doubling down on their attacks.
“He saw a Second Amendment remedy and that's what occurred here and there is no way not to make that connection," Clyburn said Monday, according to The Charleston Post & Courier, a reference to Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle's reportedly speaking of a possible “Second Amendment remedy” people could use to address their grievances.
Such efforts to blame the Tucson massacre on conservatives reflect a broader agenda, Bozell said.
“This is a part of a campaign to delegitimize, and ultimately criminalize, conservative thought in this country,” Bozell said. “Note how quickly The New York Times came out with an editorial calling for the Fairness Doctrine as a result of this.
“I mean, anything to pin to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or the tea party . . . anybody on the conservative side, to delegitimize them, that’s what they’re going to do. That’s the tactics of the far left.”
Palin’s antagonists are focusing on a Facebook post nine months ago that listed a number of Democrats the GOP hoped to defeat following the vote on healthcare reform. It used what some say appeared to be a cross hairs symbol to designate vulnerable districts, including Giffords.' Giffords later cautioned in a cable TV appearance that heated political rhetoric such as that could have serious consequences.
But evidence emerged Monday that Loughner’s fixation on Giffords may have predated both the rise of the tea parties and Palin’s emergence on the national political scene in 2008 as Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate.
In an FBI document filed with the court, the agency stated that a safe in Loughner’s residence contained a form letter written to the alleged killer from Giffords’ office, thanking him for attending a “Congress on Your Corner” event in 2007. Loughner reportedly harbored negative feelings toward Giffords for several years.
Loughner’s bizarre rants mention Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but do not mention Palin, Fox News, the tea party movement, or other high-profile conservatives such as host Glenn Beck or Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. He appeared to be an anti-government anarchist, and various sources report that his behavior had grown increasingly erratic in recent months.
From a journalistic perspective, Bozell said, the news media should be graded “close to an F” for its coverage.
“Because they have committed a mortal sin,” he said. “They have raised as fact, or at least [for] serious consideration, things that are simply not true.
“And [they] are in such a rush to implicate conservatives when evil things happen that they were doing that before they had even the basic facts of the story down. Before they even knew the gender of the poor child who was killed, they were already suggesting that Sarah Palin might be to blame.”
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's remarks implicating talk radio and political rhetoric for the shooting are “completely out of line,” Bozell said, adding, “There’s not one shred of evidence” linking the two.
The media dismisses heated rhetoric when it is used by the left-wing websites and even President Barack Obama, who remarked in the run-up to the November elections that, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
“When it’s on the left, it’s just politics,” he said in the interview. “But when it’s on the right, someone needs to be indicted for this.”
The Media Research Center chief said he’s tired of the media's double standard when it comes to tolerance for strident political speech, adding, “Conservatives are grown-ups about this.”
“But somehow this becomes part of the de-legitimization of the conservative movement,” he said. “You’re not allowed to express a thought that is contrary to the leftist mantra.”
The media watchdog said he is quite concerned with the breakdown of civility in political discourse.
“It is happening on the left. It is happening in some quarters on the right,” Bozell said. “But that’s a breakdown of civility, and I wish we would address that.
“But just because I want to address the breakdown of civility, doesn’t mean I’m suggesting someone is evil and wants to harm someone else.
“I’m all in favor of hard-hitting debate, so long as there is a legitimacy to it,” he said. “You can have civility to it. A rule of thumb that I follow on my staff: Anything we write about someone, ‘Would you say it to their face? Could you have a drink with them afterwards?’ If the answer’s yes, then it’s appropriate. If the answers no, then it’s inappropriate.”
Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., told CNN on Sunday that he intends to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening to members of Congress.
"You can't put bull's-eyes or cross hairs on a United States congressman or a federal official," Brady said in an obvious reference to the map on Palin’s Facebook page.
There is no indication what support Brady’s bill would find in the Republican-controlled House. But the shooting clearly has touched off an ongoing discussion in Congress over how to enhance security.
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