Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) urged CNN's Candy Crowley Sunday not to mention Fox News' Sarah Palin in connection with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
In a Sunday interview, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted that public figures have used violent rhetoric against Giffords, something Palin has done.
"Those of us in public life and the journalists who cover this should be thoughtful in response to this and try to bring down the rhetoric, which I'm afraid has become pervasive in the discussion of political issues," he said.
"The phrase 'don't retreat, reload,' putting crosshairs on congressional districts as targets, these sort of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response," Durbin added.
The Illinois senator was referring to a post on Sarah Palin's Facebook page that placed crosshairs over Giffords' congressional district. Palin said supporters should "reload" and use their votes to "aim for" the Democrat's defeat.
"You talk about putting those that you want to defeat in the crosshairs graphically on the Internet, you're talking about Sarah Palin here," Crowley observed. "I guess that the undertow -- and certainly it's not an undertow on the internet -- but the undertow with politicians now speaking publicly is, 'Well, the Republicans and tea party and Sarah Palin have gone way too far in their rhetoric. It's been violent rhetoric and therefore this sort of thing happens.' Are you making that direct connection?"
"I don't think you can ever make that direct connection," Durbin explained. "But don't we have an obligation, those of news public life and those who cover us, to say this is beyond the bounds? It may be constitutionally permissible, but it shouldn't be acceptable rhetoric. We shouldn't invite it on the radio talk shows or the TV, at least without comment. We ought to say that goes too far."
Crowley turned to Alexander for his view.
"Is it over the line politically these days, given the kind of climate we're in, to be talking about or graphically showing a politician in the crosshairs or talking about taking them out? Was it over the line, sort of specifically, since it's now being talked about everywhere, Sarah Palin's web ads for people she would like to see targeted for political defeat?" she asked.
"Well, Candy, I think you're responsible, by bringing this up, of doing the very thing you’re trying to condemn," Alexander shot back. "You're making and implying a direct connection between Sarah Palin and what happened."
"I think the way to get away from it is for you not to be talking about it," he added.
Apparently Fox News agrees with the senator from Tennessee because when Palin's name was mentioned at a vigil for Giffords, they cut the video feed.
Palin offered her "sincere condolences" on her Facebook page Saturday.
"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights," Palin aide 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 CNN's State of the Union, broadcast Jan. 9, 2010.