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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To be sure, Sheriff Dupnik put the issue on the national plate with his comments, and given that that the shooting appears to be a political assassination attempt in a politically rancorous border district, the debate on political tone was, in many ways, inevitable.Skip to next paragraph
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In Loughner's case, no reported evidence so far suggests any connection to the ideology or ideologues of the right. A Loughner friend, Zach Osler, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that Loughner "did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right."
That doesn't mean the issue of political rancor is unimportant, and some commentators are simply using this moment to argue that – regardless of the facts of the current case – political anger can have outsized effects on troubled minds.
"Among elite circles there is a sharp debate going on about [connections to campaign rhetoric]," says Mr. Franklin. "So we're seeing some people who deny that political rhetoric had any connection to the shooting, but who nonetheless are speaking out about the question of civility and the level of rhetoric, and they're coming from both the left and the right."
In a commentary today, the Rev. Jesse Jackson drew a comparison between Alabama Gov. George Wallace's heated rhetoric around race relations and its role in fueling the bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four young black girls in 1963.
"There is no evidence that Jared Loughner ... was a member of a right-wing hate group," Mr. Jackson writes. "He was clearly a young man whose mind was unraveling. But it is exactly the mentally unstable who are most likely to be influenced by an atmosphere filled with hate and murderous rhetoric."
Sarah Palin made the boldest pushback yet in a video released Wednesday. "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state," Ms. Palin said.