WASHINGTON (CNN) - It seemed like deja vu on the opinion shows on cable television this week. Ten days after the killing of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physicians who performed late-term abortions, a resurgence of partisan finger-pointing flared up once again on cable. This time it’s over whether James von Brunn, who is accused of killing a security officer at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and is linked to white supremacist groups, was motivated by political views of the extreme right.
Keith Olbermann said on MSNBC, "Von Brunn’s rhetoric sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh’s." Limbaugh responded on his radio program that Von Brunn "is a leftist, if anything. This guy’s beliefs, this guy’s hate, stems from influence that you find on the left, not on the right."
On Reliable Sources, CNN's Howard Kurtz asked three top journalists whether cable television and other outlets for commentary should be held to a higher standard when it comes to making insinuations about who is to blame when a hate crime occurs.
Time Magazine's senior political analyst Mark Halperin called the coverage in the aftermath of the shooting at the Holocaust Museum "a freak show" and said the opinion show hosts on cable television "are committing an absolutely irresponsible act."
"Cable TV does what it does," Halperin said. "People need to step forward, responsible people, politicians, civic leaders, and the media, and say 'we're not going to take an act of violence and turn it into a political football.'"
Halperin said the President should "be stepping forward more than he has to lead a bipartisan dialogue."
Jim Geraghty of the National Review said it's important for media personalities to resist the urge to insinuate that people with opposite political views have extremist views.
"It's always very tempting to say that those who disagree with you aren't just wrong or mistaken, but are actively evil and insane...It's a temptation that is on both sides of the aisle...It's cheap point scoring to say 'this is why you shouldn't listen to Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck because all of their listeners are just potential terrorists," Geraghty said.
Howard Kurtz pointed out that so far, "at least, some members on both sides can't resist the point scoring.[There is] an immediate rush by commentators to start assigning blame." Additionally, Kurtz noted that Von Brunn has a documented history of hate dating back almost 30 years, before cable television existed and Rush Limbaugh had a national radio program.
Air America Radio Correspondent Ana Marie Cox said the question of whether harsh rhetoric by cable show hosts and contributors can be held responsible when violence occurs is "complicated," but thinks that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann went too far.
"I think if I was someone who was using some of the same rhetoric that [Rush Limbaugh] used, I would feel a moral responsibility for his actions,” Cox said, adding though: “I have to say I disagree with Rachel [Maddow] and Keith on this. I think that was going a little bit too far to compare [Von Brunn] to Rush Limbaugh."