Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on the eve of the shooting that left her in critical condition and six others dead wrote an email to a Republican colleague promoting a softer public political discourse.
“After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation,” Giffords wrote to Trey Grayson, Kentucky Secretary of State who resigned to take a position as director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.
She continued: “I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”
Giffords wrote the congratulatory note hours prior to attending her regularly scheduled public appearance with her constituents outside a grocery store where she and 19 others were shot.
In a Tucson, Arizona intensive care unit with a life-threatening wound to her brain Monday, Giffords gave her doctors the thumbs-up, a sign of a hopeful recovery. The same day, her accused assassin Jared Loughner, 22, appeared in federal court, facing charges that could ultimately result in life in prison or the death penalty for him, if convicted.
Grayson, who first met Giffords at the Aspen Institute in 2005, told cn|2 Politics that they both believed in running for office “in the right way and for the right reasons” and abhorred divisive politics.
“I think Gabby was really sincere in that email,” he said. “And I am going to to redouble my efforts.”
Grayson was the Republican-establishment candidate that lost against Rand Paul in the GOP primary for US Senate.
Within the first few months after President Obama’s election, the level of anti-government violence escalated to the point that the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to law enforcement officials.
Conservatives, however, decried the report (PDF) “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” as a political attack on them at the time.
“The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) remarked.
In the immediate wake of Saturday’s tragedy, Sarah Palin, former Republican vice president candidate, endured criticism for a campaign race map her political action committee promoted that placed Giffords and 19 other Democratic candidates’ districts in “crosshairs.”
Two former Democratic representatives from Arizona reportedly received numerous threats during their time in office after being placed on Palin’s “crosshairs” map.
“I cannot tell you how much I wish a panty bomber would come in and just fucking blow your place up,” one constituent told former Arizona Congressman Harry Mitchell, a Democrat who lost his reelection bid last year.
Another former Arizona representative, Ann Kirkpatrick, received emails calling her a “whore” and had a sewer cap thrown through her office window, The Daily Best reported.
Pleas for more sober political exchanges echoed across the media landscape in the day after the shooting, leading even FoxNews CEO Roger Ailes to tell his on-air staff to “tone it down.”
Yet, Ailes denied that his conservative-leaning network promoted the political climate in which the shooting spree took place. He pointed fingers instead to the collapse of the alleged killer’s support network, from his school system to the police department.
“So, by the time he decided to go to a mall and and wanting to kill somebody, he was attached to nobody,” Ailes said in an interview on Global Grind.
With reporting by Sahil Kapur and Eric W. Dolan.