Ellison, media experts discuss role of political speechby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The shooting in Arizona that left a U.S. congresswoman critically wounded has prompted many politicians and the media to raise questions about whether hate-filled political speech plays a role in fueling such violence.
But as a discussion Monday on MPR's Midmorning reveals, there is a debate over whether an examination of political discourse is warranted in the specific context of the shootings.
The motive for the shootings at an event held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords isn't known. Six people were killed, and Giffords was critically wounded.
But U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said there is enough evidence that the crime was politically motivated to question "incendiary" and otherwise hateful political discourse.
Ellison said he's concerned that politicians who use such speech are encouraged to do so.
If you say the more incendiary thing, you're going to be heard from more," Ellison told MPR's Midmorning, adding that it can also help a candidate raise money.
But Stephen Hayes, a columnist for the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, said the politicians and media organizations raising questions about the role of political speech in leading to violence said they are making "tremendous logical leaps."
"There's not much evidence that Jared Loughner (the gunman) was driven by what people are saying," Hayes said. "But there was room for that on Friday, there was room for that a week ago."
Tom Rosensteil, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, and Jeremy Mayer, a George Mason University public policy professor, also spoke on Midmorning. Audio of the program is available here.