As portrait of Jared Loughner sharpens, 'vitriol' blame fades
The suggestion that the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Saturday might have been influenced by political 'vitriol' seems less likely as more becomes known about suspect Jared Loughner.
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Following the shooting, which left six people dead and apparently targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik suggested that "vitriol ... about tearing down the government" might have played a part. Rep. Robert Brady (D) of Pennsylvania has followed that lead, promising a bill that would outlaw threatening language against lawmakers.
But emerging information about primary suspect Jared Loughner suggests that he was motivated not by a climate of hate but rather by his own troubled mind and a personal vendetta against Congresswoman Giffords, who was injured in the attack. The investigation has not concluded, and more information could come to light. But for now, a majority of Americans are dismissing the notion that the shooter was set off by a Sarah Palin political map, tea party anger, or talk about "second amendment remedies."
Indeed, one piece of evidence collected so far is a 2007 letter from Giffords's office to Mr. Loughner, thanking him for attending a meet-and-greet event. On it is scrawled a death threat to Giffords. In 2007, Sarah Palin was a little-known Alaska governor and the tea party movement did not exist.
At this point, then, the left's initial eagerness to link the shooting to political anger on the right could backfire, says Charles Franklin, a pollster and political scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
"It was the immediate connection from the left of this shooting to political rhetoric from the right that polarized this, and here we have a case where there's a rush to blame Palin [and other conservatives] with no direct connection to her at all," he says. "And the more we learn about this guy, it seems there isn't any political motivation in a broader sense."