Politically charged fundraising e-mail on Arizona shootings draws scrutiny
January 12th, 2011
08:22 AM ET
11 years ago

Politically charged fundraising e-mail on Arizona shootings draws scrutiny

Washington (CNN) - Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told political supporters Tuesday that there needs to be a concerted effort by Arizona Republicans to help create a safe environment for people with opposing political ideologies, following the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.

Sanders, an independent who aligns himself with the Democratic Party, went as far as to specifically call on his colleague, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to lead the effort.

“First, this horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate,” Sanders wrote in note that also solicited political contributions. “Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred.”

Sanders then listed previous acts of vandalism at Giffords’ office, and he referenced Sarah Palin’s political campaign that targeted 20 Democrats including Giffords for defeat in 2010. A graphic for the Palin campaign effort had crosshairs placed over the 20 individual Democratic districts.

And Sanders also noted that there were other “threats of violence against Democrats in Arizona,” and he named Rep. Raul Grijalva and former Rep. Harry Mitchell as well as federal judge John Roll, who was killed in the shooting Saturday in Tucson.

“In light of all of this violence – both actual and threatened – is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process? Sanders wrote in the e-mail. “Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?

“My colleague, Senator John McCain, issued a very strong statement after the shooting in which he condemned the perpetrator of the attack. I commend him for that. But I believe Senator McCain and other Arizona Republicans need to do more. As the elder statesman of Arizona politics McCain needs to stand up and denounce the increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the right-wing and exert his influence to create a civil political environment in his state.”

Michael Briggs, Sanders’ spokesman, said the Vermont senator had not spoken to McCain prior to sending the e-mail but intended to talk to him about it.

A McCain aide said the senator was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Republicans zeroed in on the fact that Sanders addresses political fundraising in the first graph of the nearly 1,600-word e-mail.

“I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign,” he wrote. “There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me. Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.”

Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, charged that Sanders was using the Tucson tragedy for political gain.

“We will leave it up to the voters to decide the appropriateness of Sen. Sander’s decision to raise campaign donations off of the murder of six Americans,” said Walsh.

But Briggs denied that was the case and offered up this explanation:

“This was an e-mail letter that the senator’s campaign sends out, and will continue to send out, to supporters in Vermont and around the country on a regular basis,” Briggs said in the statement sent to CNN. “This quite long newsletter gives the senator’s views on the major issues facing our country. Most of the space in this newsletter dealt with the senator’s views on the economic implications of what will be happening in the new Congress. Given the enormity of the tragedy in Arizona, however, it would have been absurd not to comment on what happened there.

“The main point that the senator made about Arizona is that given the fact that Rep. Giffords’ office was attacked last year after her vote for health care reform, that a protester had previously brought a gun to an event she held, that Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva had to close his district office when someone shot a bullet through his window, that former Rep. Harry Mitchell had to suspend a town meeting in his district because of threatening phone calls and that Judge John Roll had received numerous threatening calls and death threats, one should not have been completely surprised by the tragedy of last Saturday. There is clearly a pervasive climate of fear and violence in Arizona and the senator very much hopes that the state’s leading public officials will do what they can to create more civility so that people there can express their political views without fear,” Briggs said in the statement.

“As he always does, the senator devoted one sentence in a four-page newsletter to thanking his supporters and another sentence indicating that their support in the future would be appreciated,” Briggs added.

Sanders served 16 years in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2006.

Filed under: Bernie Sanders • Gabrielle Giffords
soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. Byrd

    Thank you, Sen. Sanders: “Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred.” The conservative pundits and politicians have been spewing the venomous and violence-laced rhetoric against liberal, or "libertards" as is used daily on these pages. Their candidates have proposed 2nd Amendment Remedies against some politicians, which should have landed them in jail for inciting violence against an elected public official, one of whom is now fighting for her life. But the only thing the republicans now want to do is to disown the words and pretend they're just little angels engaged in friendly but spirited debate. And it just doesn't wash. You want redemption, then take responsibility for your words and actions. Until then, I don't want to hear any more of your pathetic excuses, because you're all accessories to murder as far as I'm concerned.

    January 12, 2011 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  2. Pat in IL

    If McCain stood up to "denounch violent rhetoric", wouldn't that be flip-flopping?

    January 12, 2011 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  3. Susan B

    Senator Sanders said what needed to be said and I agree with him. The leaders of the Republican Party need to control and lessen the vitriol coming from the extreme right.... if they can. I think it is out of their hands.. fueled by Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and others at Fox and on talk radio.

    January 12, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  4. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Do you honestly believe that if it was democrats campaigning against republicans using cross-hairs in their graphics, there wouldn't be a complete outrage by the right? Have you even paid attention for the past decade? When the GOP has accused democrats' objections against their policies to be 'aid and comfort to the enemy' and said that any dissent by democrats against the GOP endangers American lives? Now they think that putting cross-hairs on pictures of democrats is OKAY? GOP: the party of hypocrisy!

    January 12, 2011 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  5. Gary

    Good email. Republicans and Tea Party will not like. He is correct 100% and I hope that anyone with a brain can see this. Big money is rolling behind Palin and other right-wing hard core politicians. However, when you take one step to far and expose yourself for what you really are, people will see. We are not blind Palin, Rush and Beck. The people that are eating up what these individuals are spraying are not all stable. Case in point.

    January 12, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. u2canfail

    I love Bernie. Thanking contributors is reasonable. But certainly, with the main text of the post, it is a bit hard to take, at this moment in time. (Bernie thank the contributors in a separate post, please.)
    I would say that fundraising and the tragedy in AZ should just not be in the same page. But then it is already being used by several groups as a fundraising event in letters to followers. It is the saddest statement on politics today. Murder by a crazy person, is just not fundraising material, unless you support murder.

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  7. BLM

    I'd expect nothing less from a commie sympathizer as Bernard Sanders. I always thought the people of Vermont had better common sense than to re-elect such a moron

    January 12, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  8. steven

    sanders is one of the finest senators in the congress...i wish that all in the congress were like him...good thinker with strong feelings for the needs of his constituents...

    January 12, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  9. Caren

    Someone with common sense please stand to represent the Republican Party!!!

    January 12, 2011 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  10. Average American

    This tragedy and a fund raising email should never, ever be combined! Bernie needs to apologize!!!

    January 12, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  11. Jack

    Bernie's my man. We need more men/women like him in Congress. .

    January 12, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  12. Betsy

    One of the key questions I am not seeing anywhere is why are the people in Arizona on edge, up in arms, scared, nervous, afraid? I agree that we can't have people shooting people, but when is our Congress going to stand up for the American citizens who are being shot by the illegal immigrants and members of Mexico's drug cartels? This is where it begins, and where it should end, but it won't because it's not politically beneficial for many in Congress to defend its own citizens.

    January 12, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  13. New Age Independant

    Democrat political maneuvering around this horrid event is sickening. If this is what democrats are all about, then I will have nothing to do with the party ever again. It's sad what liberals have turned the party into these days. They have become the most hateful and intolerant group I have ever known.

    January 12, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  14. katiec

    McCain has been uncharactierlistically quiet on all of this.
    Perhaps it has now fully sunk in the irresponsible radical he has unleashed on our country.
    From day one she has shouted hate, anger, unrest and division of our country.
    And, as someone said, she uses facts as often as a polar bear uses toilet paper.

    January 12, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. Adalbert

    As always, senator Sanders is right on target.

    January 12, 2011 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  16. JLH

    Bernie Sanders is the ONLY true independent in Congress. Thank God for him!

    January 12, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  17. Mary225

    Yesterday on the SarahPAC website, Sarah asked for donations because she "needs support now more than ever." Money always makes Sarah feel better.

    January 12, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  18. Rick McDaniel

    The more we see how our politicians react to matters, the more we should be becoming aware, that they lack common sense, and that they react without any real knowledge of the facts and circumstances of events that occur.

    January 12, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  19. Freedom of Speech in the USA

    Just more of the same "let no crisis be wasted" tragedy exploitation from the far left. I hope this has all opened the eyes of Americans to just how low these people can be. As for Sanders, I find it hard to believe this idiot is the best they can send to Washington. They need to get a clue and realize this guy is a fool.

    January 12, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  20. James NY

    This is a real low-class maneuver by Sanders to try and raise money off the deaths and suffering of others.

    Shame on you Bernie Sanders. You show what little class you have.

    January 12, 2011 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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