Yesterday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot at a campaign event in Tucson by a deranged gunman who also fired at twenty other people, killing six, including a federal judge and a nine year-old girl. Police have a suspect in custody — 22 year-old Jared Lee Loughner — who in one of his internet posting “suggested that the government was trying to trick him, or take advantage of him.”
Last year, Sarah Palin’s political action committee posted a map with gun cross-hairs over the districts of several Democrats who voted for health care reform, including that of Giffords. Last year, Giffords herself warned that such a depiction may have consequences. “For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district,” Giffords said. “When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.” The image appears to have been taken down yesterday.
Today, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley about Palin’s ad, and responded that it was actually those referencing the ad that are being “irresponsible”:
CROWLEY: Was it over the line, sort of specifically, since it’s now being talked about everywhere, with Sarah Palin’s web ads about people that she would like to see targeted for political defeat.
ALEXANDER: Well, Candy, I think you’re responsible, by bringing this up, of doing the very thing you’re trying to condemn. You’re making and implying a direct connection between Sarah Palin and what happened. You’re picking out a particular incident. Well, I think the way to get away from it is for you not to be talking about it.
Palin yesterday offered her “sincere condolences” but her aides have bristled at the notion that Palin’s cross-hairs might have influenced violent actions. In fact, they now deny the image was meant to symbolize a gun-sight at all. “We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights,” said Palin aide Rebecca Mansour, adding that there was “nothing irresponsible about our graphic.”
Alexander is not the only senator dismissive of the notion that overheated political rhetoric may have played a role in the shooting. Also on CNN, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) blamed a “breakdown in the family structure.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) , meanwhile, said that “putting cross-hairs on congressional districts…invite the kinds of toxic rhetoric that lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response.” On Fox News Sunday, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) noted that Palin wasn’t the only one using gun-related rhetoric during the campaign, referencing Sharron Angle’s pronouncement that “Second Amendment remedies” may be needed to reverse the course of Congress. Last April, former President Bill Clinton recommended that both the media and politicians be responsible with their rhetoric since it falls on the “serious and the delirious alike.”