'I refuse to give in to that feeling of despair'

The cable television comedian who led a rally inside the Beltway to advocate for a more temperate public discourse last fall gave a mixed message on the effects of political rhetoric in the wake of a recent shooting in Arizona.

Yet, in the end, Jon Stewart refused to give up hope on the robustness of Americans' spirit.

"I do think it's important to watch our rhetoric," Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, said Monday night. "I think it's a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid madmen and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speak."

He continued, "It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on teevee."

Stewart, whose "Rally to Restore Sanity" drew thousands to Washington, D.C. days before the 2010 mid-term elections, advised this television audience that the show that mocks 24-hour cable news programs might not be funny Monday evening.

Stewart also questioned the "political pundit world" in its attempt to single out violent political rhetoric and imagery as the cause of the weekend's tragedy. Alluding to whether Sarah Palin's "crosshairs map" directly contributed to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of six others, he said, "I have no fucking idea."

"I wouldn't blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine," he said, "and that is coming from somebody who truly hates our political environment."

"It is toxic," Stewart continued. "It is unproductive. But to say that that is what has caused this or that the people in that are responsible for this. I don't think you could do it. You cannot outsmart crazy. You don't know what a troubled mind will get caught on."

The FBI stated in its evidence filings that Giffords' alleged killer -- Jared Lee Loughner -- launched a premeditated attack. Writings and videos attributed to Loughner, who is being held without bail charged with five federal crimes, have fueled speculation of his current mental state.

"I refuse to give in to that feeling of despair," Stewart said urging his audience to focus on lives led by the victims of the shooting and the "anonymous goodness" in the world.

Stewart ended by saying that the "real solace" of Saturday's tragedy is that Americans "haven't lost our capacity to be horrified."

"Please let us hope we never do," he said. "Let us hope we never become numb to what real horror, what the real blood of patriots looks like when it's spilled."

This video is from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, broadcast Jan. 19, 2011.

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