An Arizona sheriff responsible for investigating the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 18 others isn’t backing down from assigning some responsibility to vitriolic remarks by public figures.
Appearing on ABC News Monday, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik stood by earlier remarks that “vitriolic statements” made on radio and TV created a dangerous climate in Arizona that inspired 22-year-old Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Giffords.
“You’ve been very busy over the weekend, and haven’t pulled punches on the political climate here,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos noted. “You said very clearly you believe the political climate has helped creating an atmosphere of hate that can touch people like Jared Loughner. Is that still you what believe?”
“You know, I suppose you can speculate until your heart’s content,” Dupnik began. “But I think many people have held for a long time, and many people are very upset with what’s going on in America, that we have become a very angry country. Part of it very ugly. And that even though we have free speech in this country, constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making the people angry at government, public officials, elected officials and so forth, may benefit some party.”
“But I think those people have to consider that they may have some responsibility when incidents like this occur and may occur in the future,” he added.
The sheriff seemed to be echoing comments that he made at a Saturday press conference, where he said Arizona had “become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” he said. “And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
The next day on Fox News, Dupnik went even further with his remarks.
“There are a whole lot of people in this country who are very angry about the politics of people like Gabrielle,” he said. “There was a lot of vitriolic statements made night and day on radio and TV about her support of health care, about her support of some of the other things, and some of the vitriol got …. a lot of people agitated.”
Fox News host Megyn Kelly pushed back, accusing the sheriff of injecting “speculative opinion.”
“With respect, sheriff, I know that you’re a Democrat and you ran for office as a Democrat, and I just want to press you on that a little,” Kelly said. “I’m sure some of our viewers are asking themselves why you are putting a political spin on this when they may be asking why you the sheriff aren’t just focused on the facts, on uncovering the facts.”
While sheriff didn’t name any names directly, he may have well been referring to the type of violent rhetoric and imagery used by Fox News’ Sarah Palin.
A post on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page placed crosshairs over Giffords’ congressional district. Palin said supporters should “reload” and use their votes to “aim for” the Democrat’s defeat.
When Palin’s name was mentioned at a vigil for Giffords Saturday, Fox News quickly cut away.
Palin offered her “sincere condolences” on her Facebook page Saturday.
“We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights,” Palin staffer Rebecca Mansour told conservative talk show host Tammy Bruce. Mansour agreed with Bruce’s suggestion that the crosshairs were simply representing a “surveyor’s symbol.”
This video is from ABC’s Good Morning America, broadcast Jan. 10, 2010.