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Cable News Pundits Debate the Impact of Overheated Rhetoric in the Wake of Arizona Shooting (VIDEO)

by Jeremy Taylor, posted Jan 11th 2011 6:15PM
The tragic shooting in Arizona this weekend has, in recent days, spurred a debate about the impact that overheated political rhetoric is having on our society. That debate has raged for the past 48 hours on cable news, with pundits on each side of the aisle expressing a wide variety of thoughts, viewpoints and emotions on the issue. We've rounded up reactions from Bill Maher, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart here.

Appearing on 'Anderson Cooper 360' (weekdays, 9PM on CNN), Bill Maher argued that vitriol coming from certain right-wing talkers and politicians may have served as a catalyst to Jared Lee Loughner's rampage, which left six people dead and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded.

Maher singled out Glenn Beck as a possible influence on Loughner's muddled, incoherent paranoia about currency and the gold standard, citing Beck's "obsession" with the value of gold, and America's debt.

Bill O'Reilly was disgusted that the political right, and Fox News specifically, was being assigned blame for the actions of a deranged sociopath. Speaking on 'The O'Reilly Factor' (weekdays, 8PM ET on Fox News), O'Reilly reserved his strongest words for The New York Times, which he declared "flat out reprehensible" for linking the shooting to a hate-filled political climate created by Republicans.

A majority of the public seems to agree with O'Reilly's underlying argument that our overheated poltical climate didn't play a role in the tragedy. In a CBS poll taken Sunday and Monday, 57 percent of respondents said that harsh political rhetoric had "nothing" to do with the shooting, as opposed to only 32 percent who said that it did.

In the wake of the tragedy, Keith Olbermann continued to play Hamlet with his Worst Person in the World segment, which he suspended a few months ago only to reinstate about a week later.

On 'Countdown With Keith Olbermann' (weekdays, 8PM ET on MSNBC) Monday, Olbermann announced the Worst Person in the World segment would continue, but under a different name. Olbermann's reasoning for the change is that he's worried that some viewers might believe Olbermann literally thinks the people he highlights are the worst people in the world, and, given the events of last weekend, there is "potential danger in that."

Finally, count Jon Stewart among the camp that doesn't think we have enough information to tie the horrible actions of Jared Lee Loughner to any political or media rhetoric.

Nevertheless, on 'The Daily Show,' Stewart made an always welcome plea for cable TV civility:

"It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let's at least make troubled individuals easier to spot."

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In some ways i agree with mahr about the kind of gun that was used. People who buy guns should be checked out left and right for mental illness..do we really need guns with 31 rounds of shots... On the other hand if someday we end up needing to protect ourselves from gangs or the government we might want them. It's a difficult thing. I understand both sides. However, maher is becoming more and more contradictory....Does he or doesn't he believe in free speech in whatever forms it comes in??? I do!!!

January 12 2011 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

should we stop free speech because some people go off the deep end and do horrible things in the world? I don't think so!!!! There have always been people who have a nervous breakdown...I always ask where were his loved ones and people who watched him go off and didn't get help before he did something. a small minority of people who have nervous breakdowns or mental illness can harm themselves and others. We've always know n that...so why all this blaming? It is what it is. Start looking at prevention. It could have been stopped if parents, friends, police and doctors would have interceded.

January 12 2011 at 1:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Why does anyone listen to or care what Bill Maher has to say ? Hello America All these idiots are comedians turned " journalists " sports commentators turned " journalists ". Here's a fresh idea. Formulate your own opinions based on fact. Not what some knucklehead tells you to think. Nah, that's too hard Let's listen to the guy from Canada

January 11 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Actually, Loughner got his ideas of currency from a group known as "Anti-Flag". His actions might have been fueled by drug use and over-indulgence in the practice of "conscience dreaming". I'm siding with the Stewart on this; there's just not enough to say what motivated this person. Is it possible that a crazy person committed a random act of violence? Nah, that's never happened before.

Source: http://twitter.com/#!/caitieparker/status/23852526830878720

January 11 2011 at 8:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jimmy Tidwell

57% of the public are foolish to think that the violent rhetoric coming out of so-called political discourse in this country doesn't have a role in this tragedy.

January 11 2011 at 7:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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