June 14th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
14 years ago

Reliable Sources: Media-museum murder link?

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."

Filed under: State of the Union
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Peter E

    There are hundreds of hate-crime murders in the US every year, why is this the ONLY one that the media talks about? These crimes could have been prevented if the media responsibly reported on ALL of them, instead of waiting until somebody gets killed at a famous landmark! Hypocrisy!

    June 14, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Limbaugh is a Liberal

    Fun fact: the US is the ONLY 1st world country where naziism, hate speeches and hate groups are legal! Yay for leading the world!

    June 14, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. katiec

    The right wing media is most certainly responsible for instilling hate, anger and unrest among those who listen to them.
    And, with the republicans supporting them and their statements, they are just as guilty.
    The radicals do not need much urging to act out and because of the support they are getting will justify their actions.
    This is the United States of America and this is not what we stand

    June 14, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Ken

    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."

    Just like during the last presidential campaign. The Republicans said amazingly outlandish things and simply expected to not be questioned!

    Just think about it. It only takes a minute. Which party would have anti-abortionists in it and which party would find the Aryan Nations people
    voting for them. Nice try, Hector Projector Limbaugh.

    June 14, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Kate

    Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Bill O' Reilly, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity. They are all of a piece – proponents of a particular political ideology who adopt the appearance and characteristics of a "news anchor". They fire up the people who agree with them. And that's fine, though I think they should be more transparent about their biases. However, the politicians elected to office have a responsibility to avoid hyperbolic, incendiary language – otherwise, they have to accept some responsibility for the consequences. The left is in power, so right now the real danger is the frustration of radical elements on the right. When the right is in power, the opposite is true. So, yes, now the Republicans have a moral responsibility not to foster radicalism for their own gain. We will see how that goes.

    June 14, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. Lynn

    The party that lost the election sure had a lot of advice for the real president today!!

    June 14, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    The "Right" says: Rush Said It I Believe It That SETTLES IT!"

    Help me out, cause I REALLY don't understand: In what ways are Von Brunn's beliefs and/or actions like ANYTHING from the current "Left?"

    If Rush said that little green men were controlling Von Brunn and his actions, there are a whole lot of "Ditto Heads" that would start wearing tin foil hats.

    June 14, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Mike in NYC

    White Nationalists hold White Republicans and conservatives in absolute contempt. They're regarded as racial traitors, and it's easy to see why those like Von Brunn view them as such. For example, the GOP, along with the Dems, stood by as 30 million illegal immigrants invaded the US. Their hero Reagan didn’t do much about that, did he?

    Most GOPer's would rather lose an arm than deal honestly with the fact that Whites are a shrinking percentage of the US population. Really, when was the last time you heard a Repub talk about that, let alone acknowledge that it's a bad thing? Nope, they're getting their "minority outreach" in gear, in the vain hope that they can grab enough of the “New America” vote to get back into power. It won’t work.

    Watching mainstream right and left duke it out is like watching a football game. Entertaining, but as far as dealing with real issues is concerned, useless.

    June 14, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  9. GI Joe

    The media is constantly stirring the pot on both sides. Using "violent" tems in headlines and rerunning propaganda that incites hate and fear.

    It's on all channels.

    June 14, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. JR

    Limbaugh calling the white supremacist a "leftist", Jesus, I guess if it walks like duck and quacks like a duck and has feathers like a duck, it"s a dog to the moron Limbaugh.

    More likely, Limbaugh's been getting his material from Von Brunn’s web site.

    June 14, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. Neutralizer

    Since 2007, journalists have been acting IRRESPONSIBLY, the WORST violators of such offense is MSNBC, second is CNN (Cooper Anderson – teabagging comment).

    There's a reason why MSNBC and CNN are suffering from low ratings, viewers are switching channels, they can see how journalists from both cable channels make their own spin, they've become tabloid news.

    I used to be a big follower of CNN, When Bernanrd Shaw was around. CNN used to have integrity, TOP CALIBER journalists and anchor people; now all they have are wannabe reporters with exception of Cristiane Amanpour and Lou Dobbs; the rest can work for National Enquirer.

    I don't watch MSNBC, they're full of angry journalists, foaming in the mouth Keith Olbermann wanted to be Murrow – not in this lifetime. He should form his own TV station and call it "HatefulRUs network."

    June 14, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. Independent

    No one in their right mind should listen to BillO, Rush or Beck...they are all LIARS and they omit words from sentences, cut off a sentence to make whomever they are talking about look bad....

    June 14, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Tom

    "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..."

    Tell that to Anne Coulter.

    June 14, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. Matt, Canoga Park

    Obermann is such a hate filled ignorant fool. Von Brunn's own rantings and ravings that he wrote down constantly denounce the right, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others the Obermann seeks to idict under his zealotry.

    His ratings prove how far out there his views are and now CNN is questioning Obermanns rant as well. Don't forget Obermann is a former fired Fox employee. He has always held a grudge over his dismisal and has used his program and his idiology to be a bully pulpit against the right and Fox news.

    Finally America is starting to see through this ignoramous and pretty soon he will be dropped from the airwaves.

    June 14, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. katiec

    Although there have always been radicals, with Palin/Mccain
    spouting lies, instigating anger and unrest, making radical statements during their campaigns, they caused the amounts of extremists to increase significantly. Since then hate has taken
    the forefront over rational thinking and actions.
    Unfortunately the rest of the republican party is following the same path to destruction which is very dangerous and disturbing.

    June 14, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  16. Mandy

    Having never paid much attention to politics until this last election, I have been very concerned by some of the chatter coming from these talk shows, especially the Fox shows. I had no idea that such hatred existed. I have seen unnecessary comments from both sides, but it is the republicans that seem more extreme.

    June 14, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  17. normajean

    It isn't just a matter of disagreeing with Limbaugh, it's that he is so full of hate and inspires a lot of people that are unable to think for themselves.No wonder we have what are called "terrorist killings."These uncertain people listen to him and believe what he says .Frankly, I doubt that they even listen to Keith,Rachel or Chris because these are mostly discussions with other news people .Rush just sits by himself and screams and rants. That is inciting.

    June 14, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. Pragmatic

    '"Halperin said the President should "be stepping forward more than he has to lead a bipartisan dialogue."...

    Why? President Obama has tried and been rejected time and again. His court nominee is label "racist" instead of discussing the difference in philosophies. Easier to call names than to have an intelligent debate.

    The Republican idea of "bipartisan" is using only failed Republican ideas: They are against any new ideas – just on general principals pledge to vote "no" before they even hear the proposal.

    Rush should check his facts: A higher percentage taking the law into their own hands support the violent right-wing policies – not the left.

    June 14, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. Post always rejected by CNN

    I don't care for Keith Olberman most of the time but he is correct in stating that the hate and urges to violence come from the right wing talk show hosts. Look at Glen Beck. To improve his ratins he rants and raves about the left and what they should do to them. Rush does the same. And no body could urge to violence more than Ann Coulter. Telling people that left leaning judges should be hung. And the right wing disc jockey that told people to go out in their neighborhoods and hunt down democrats and shoot them.

    Tell me....the name of any, any at all of the left commentators or TV hosts that urge any one to kill and maim. We all know it is the right that does this. And they deny deny deny and then turn around and rant and rave again.

    June 14, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. Rani McBride

    Keith Olberman went too far????? Keith Olberman was reacting to these right wing radio hosts blaming the liberal establishment for everything, when it is clear as the light of day Von Brunn is a white supremist. Do you ever listen to the rhetoric of Rush, Hannity and Glen Beck. They are not just debating their difference of opinion. They are spouting hate. If someone does not agree with them, they are evil and less than human. Wake up people. And President Obama has said a lot on this issue. What matters is his actions. You don't see him doing this to people who dont believe like him. He has better things to do than to babysit these morons who are more interested in padding their pockets with their ratings than the safety of America. The far right is ruining this Country!

    June 14, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. ThinkAboutIt

    I'm betting Von Brunn's lawyers will say he's too old and ill to stand trial for his crime. That's what all the old Nazis did and still do whenever they get confronted with the atrocities of their crimes: play the "pity me/I'm old" card.

    Von Brunn is 88 years old and what's his big macho act of retribution for every imagined slight he's suffered? Go to a building of reflection and healing and gun down the person who opened the door for him!

    What a pathetic little man! (Emphasis on "little.)

    June 14, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. Almost nobody watches......

    MSNBC anyway.....Olbermann, Madow and Matthews are irrelevant to all but a small following......Fox outdraws them 4:1......

    June 14, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. Georgia Peach

    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.

    It maybe a cheap point scoring.....but points do add up overtime. Not everyone at the "Tea-Party" were there to protest. Some were there to "recruit" into Separatist Party to stop the "Obama Opression." Some may take that type of rhetoric as a call for another "civil war" against Blacks, Jews and Hispanics.

    June 14, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |