After James Holmes allegedly opened fire on a room full of moviegoers enjoying a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” ABC’s Brian Ross — in what can only be described as an act of sloppy journalism — practically jumped at the chance to tie the shooter to the Tea Party.
“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo., uh Paige, on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last summer. We don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado,” Ross said.
Problem: Ross and ABC News never investigated the connection. Had they checked their facts, they would’ve discovered that the 52-year-old Tea Partier was not, in fact, the same man arrested by Aurora police that morning. But that didn’t stop Ross. He went on national television and casually tossed out the idea that the Tea Party might somehow be connected to the “Batman” massacre.
ABC News and Ross quickly apologized for the sloppy reporting. But why did they try to tie the conservative grassroots movement to the nightmarish events in Colorado?
As it turns out, conservatives should be used to it at this point. After all, it’s not like Ross’ undisciplined act of media malpractice is a first. Indeed, the media has a long history of trying to tie acts of psychopathic violence to the Tea Party and/or conservative personalities.
Lawyer and blogger Gabriel Malor has an op-ed in the New York Post that includes a sampling of some of the moments when the media, without any sort of evidence or proof, has wrongly lumped conservatism with senseless acts of violence. We’ve decided to pick six of them and go into detail.
6. Dr. Amy Bishop
University of Alabama in Huntsville professor Dr. Amy Bishop on Feb. 12, 2010, shot 12 of her colleagues with 9-millimeter handgun, killing three and wounding three more. After the horrific incident, Reuters Foundation Fellow Jonathan Curiel pondered her motivation: “Does racism explain the tenure shooting and the tea party movement?”
No. It doesn’t.
Had Curiel done a little legwork, he would have discovered Bishop’s long history of violence and the fact that, according to one family source, she “was a far-left political extremist who was obsessed with President Obama,” the Boston Herald reported.
5. The Discovery Channel Eco-Terrorist
Jason Lee (image courtesy: CBS News/Shepherd Johnson)
Armed with two starter pistols and an explosive device, 43-year-old eco-terrorist James Lee entered the Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., on Sept. 1, 2010, and took three hostages. After a tense four-hour standoff, authorities shot Lee dead and freed the hostages.
But when the story broke, ThinkProgress [of course] rushed to claim that Lee’s rambling, incoherent, and frightening eco-manifesto sounded, like, totally similar to certain conservative immigration reform groups.
Therefore, he’s probably one of those crazy, right-wing extremists, right?
Here’s a sample of Lee’s manifesto:
Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive [sic] creatures around and are wrecking what’s left of the planet with their false morals and breeding culture.
For every human born, ACRES of wildlife forests must be turned into farmland in order to feed that new addition over the course of 60 to 100 YEARS of that new human’s lifespan! THIS IS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FOREST CREATURES!!!! All human procreation and farming must cease!
It is the responsibility [sic] of everyone to preserve the planet they live on by not breeding any more children who will continue their filthy practices. Children represent FUTURE catastrophic pollution whereas their parents are current pollution. NO MORE BABIES!
Conservatives support many things, but a world where people die so that trees might live isn’t one of them.
4. The Census-Taker
Field Representative for the United States Census Bureau William Edwin “Bill” Sparkman’s nude body was found tied to a tree with the word “fed” scribbled across his chest on Sept. 12, 2009, in Clay County, Kentucky. His government ID was taped his neck and his feet and hands were bound with duct tape.
Given the nature of his work, and the fact that “fed” was written on his chest, it wasn’t long before the media started suggesting anti-government conservatives may be responsible for his death.
When the Associated Press detailed Sparkman’s death, the lefty blogosphere blew up.
Media’s True Crime Report blog cited the “rage against Washington . . . especially in the rural South,” and argued that Sparkman’s death had “all the makings of some anti-government goober taking his half-wit beliefs way too far.”
Andrew “Trig Truther” Sullivan blamed “Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk-radio cohorts” while liberal talk-show host Stephanie Miller said the Tea Party was responsible for Sparkman’s death.
As it turns out, the census-taker killed himself and staged it to look like a murder. Why? He wanted his family to collect the insurance money.
3. The Times Square Bomber
On May 1, 2010, two New York Times Square street vendors noticed smoke pouring out of an SUV and quickly alerted a nearby police officer. Authorities quickly discovered that the car was equipped with a car bomb and they were able to remove it without any incident.
But the media and left-leaning politicians didn’t waste any time jumping to conclusions.
The person who tried to bomb Times Square was probably “a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health-care bill or something,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested during an interview with Katie Couric.
The bomber was “either a lone nut job or a member of some squirrely branch of the Tea Party, anti-government far right. Which actually exists in Connecticut, where, it seems, the car’s license plates were stolen,” said The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss.
And, of course, from the lovely folks at the Daily Kos:
The reality is that in this country there seem to be essentially two scenarios that can unfold at this point when we hear about terrorism, two kinds of people/groups that typically end up being involved. And that says quite a lot in and of itself. If I were the Tea Partiers, I wouldn’t be too quick to dwell on the question of why Americans might think they’re involved in terrorism. I don’t think that’s a discussion that’s going to go well for them.
But two days after the bomb was neutralized, the feds arrested 30-year-old Faisal Shahza who, according to U.S. officials, was trained in a Pakistani terrorist camp. He was later found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for his botched attempt at terrorism. When the judge told him that he’d never walk again as a free man, Shahza responded by saying, “Allahu akbar.”
“If I am given 1,000 lives, I will sacrifice them all for the sake of Allah fighting this cause, defending our lands, making the word of Allah supreme over any religion or system,” Shahza told a packed courtroom.
So, wait, he wasn’t mad about Obamacare?
Strike four [yeah, we're going to keep giving them strikes. Why not?]
2. The IRS Kamikaze Attack
Image courtesy (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman)
Software consultant Andrew Joseph Stack on Feb. 18 , 2010, flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and IRS manager Vernon Hunter and injuring 13 others.
Of course, because it was an IRS building, the press was more than willing to assume Stack was a member of the Tea Party.
“There’s no information yet on whether he was involved in any anti-government groups or whether he was a lone wolf. But after reading his 34-paragraph screed, I am struck by how his alienation is similar to that we’re hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement,” Jonathan Capehart wrote for the Washington Post
“He was mad at the IRS, and left what CNN reports was a suicide note on a local website, detailing his trials with the agency. In fact, a lot of his rhetoric could have been taken directly from a handwritten sign at a tea party rally [emphasis added],” Chris Rovzar wrote for New York Magazine.
Our dear friends at the Daily Kos explained: “teabaggers have struck with their first 9/11 inspired terrorist attack.”
And then there’s this suggestive image [via Sweetness & light]:
As it turns out, Stack was about as unstable as the Discovery Channel Eco-Terrorist. His verbose and bizarre suicide note ends with the following: “The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”
Quoting “The Communist Manifesto” and disparaging capitalism? Definitely a Tea Partier.
1. Palin Caused the Gabby Giffords Shooting
Aside from the “Batman” massacre, this is probably the most egregious example of the media rushing to blame conservatives for terrible acts of violence.
Mentally disturbed and apolitical Jared Loughner on Jan. 8, 2011, took a taxi to a Safeway supermarket in Casas Adobes, Ariz., and opened fire on a crowd that had gathered to meet Rep. Gabby Giffords. Loughner’s rampage left six people dead and injured 13 more, including the congresswoman.
But before the police even had time to collect all of the shell casings, the media had already accused former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — and anyone like her – of somehow prompting Loughner’s shooting spree.
“Arizona massacre: Should Sarah Palin share the blame?” read one headline.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, blamed Palin as well as Sharron Angle for the shooting: “I think [their] statements are totally irresponsible and they’re not without consequences.”
Elsewhere, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank blamed Palin and Glenn Beck for the shooting.
“Both are finally being held to account for recklessly playing with violent images in a way that is bound to incite the unstable,” said Milbank during an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
The New York Times’ Paul Krugman published a blog post blaming conservatives for the tragedy within just hours of the incident:
Just yesterday, Ezra Klein remarked that opposition to health reform was getting scary. Actually, it’s been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.
You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.
Here’s the best part: “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was.”
As it turns out, Loughner wasn’t motivated by conservatives – he was motivated by the voices in his head. Prior to the Tuscon shooting, he didn’t watch TV, he burned American flags, he “disliked” the news, he pored over “The Communist Manifesto” and “Mein Kampf,” and he didn’t listen to talk radio. Furthermore, it has been revealed that he is a registered Independent.
“He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right,” said Loughner’s high school friend Zach Osle.
What was that about it being “politically motivated”?
“Is it just me, or is it odd that the media’s go-to suspect in these things is always, always on the conservative side of the political spectrum. It’s almost like they have an agenda or something,” the blog Ace of Spades notes.
Read Malor’s full op-ed with other examples and his thoughts here.
(H/T: Ace of Spades)