As the Arizona congresswoman brazenly shot fights for her life, calls went out Sunday for politicians and talking heads to curb their vitriolic rhetoric.
In a 800-person conference call among congress members, Speaker John Boehner yesterday said he hoped they would “tone down their rhetoric,” according to Rep. Charles Rangel, who was on the call.
“I also hope we all play our part by rejecting the incendiary rhetoric that has become too common in our political discourse,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat.
It’s still unknown what motivated suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner, 22, to shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat, and 19 others Saturday, killing six. But what’s clear is how the tragedy has rocked the nation.
Rangel said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called him to offer additional security, which he declined.
New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat, reportedly tied the shooting to Fox News and its “aura of hate,” and Linda Lopez, a Democrat in the Arizona Senate, said Giffords was an enemy of the Tea Party.
But Evan Stavisky, a Democratic political adviser, said there’s too much unknown right now to blame anything or anyone.
“The rhetoric’s irresponsible and outrageous, but did it push a disturbed person over the edge? Who knows,” he said.
Curtis Sliwa, radio host and Guardian Angels founder, agreed, saying some are using the shooting for political gain.
“Rhetoric impacts millions and millions of people, and we don’t have millions of shootings,” he said. “Just because it fits somebody’s agenda, it’s wrong for them to seize upon that.”
And David Webb, co-founder of TeaParty365, said it’s irresponsible to blame the shooting on politics, especially coming from elected officials.
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, psychiatrist and founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center & author of 16 books on schizophrenia, said the political rhetoric-made-him-do-it argument “is a bit of a red herring.”
“Had the rhetoric been different or more subdued, Loughner may have picked a different target, but this is all going on in his head,” he said. “The media hasn’t made much of a difference at all.”
For Stavisky, the reaction has focused on the wrong thing.
“The victims should be in our thoughts,” he said. “Not the political aftermath or the rhetoric.”
(With Sheila Anne Feeney and Reuters)