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Did hateful rhetoric fuel deadly shooting in Arizona?

Stephen Piggott • Jan 08, 2011

In the aftermath of today’s tragic events in Tucson, the motive of the shooter who killed six and injured over a dozen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is still in question.

What we do know is that the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, was apprehended after shooting 18 people at a public event held by Rep. Giffords. Of the six people shot and killed, one was a 9-year-old girl.

Giffords was one of 20 Democratic Congressmen and women, quite literally, targeted by Sarah Palin during the 2010 midterm elections. Palin released a map of the United States with 20 cross-hairs over the states the 20 House Democrats represented.

According to allgov.com:

Back on March 22, 2010, just hours after Giffords voted to pass the health reform bill, the glass door of her office in Tucson was smashed  The following evening, Sarah Palin revealed her list of 20 Democratic members of Congress she urged her followers to defeat. She illustrated her list with a map of the United States that displayed a rifle scope on top of each of the 20 districts she was targeting. One of the targeted districts was that of Gabrielle Giffords.Palin also tweeted, “Don’t Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!”

On March 25, MSNBC invited Giffords to comment on the attack on her office. Giffords noted that “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action.” MSNBC co-host Chuck Todd was quick to defend Palin. “In fairness,” he said, “campaign rhetoric and war rhetoric have been interchangeable for years….I understand that in the comment it may look bad, but do you really think that’s what she intended?”

Unfortunately, it was Giffords who got it right and Todd who got it wrong.

Earlier this year, another tragedy was narrowly averted after Byron Williams was arrested - after a shoot-out with police - on his way to the Tides Foundation and ACLU offices in San Francisco, California. Both organizations had been featured on Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theory-laced programs.

Williams was armed with three guns, a bullet proof vest, and large quantities of ammunition. He believed that he would start a revolution by killing as many workers at both organizations as possible.

In the weeks following his arrest, Williams revealed how Glenn Beck’s rhetoric inspired him to attack. He stated, “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.”

Violent rhetoric by the far right is more than just irresponsible, it’s an attack on American democracy. The consequences are serious. And deadly.

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