Politically charged fundraising e-mail on Arizona shootings draws scrutiny
January 12th, 2011
08:22 AM ET
10 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. John in Cal

    I just watch Glen Beck make fun of those that want less hateful comments to be spoken. What kind of man does this? what kind of sick man seems to care so little about those that were hurt or died because of a deranged man who could have been influanced by such rhetoric. Beck continues to spew this same hateful talk even now. I have no doubt that at sometime he will say or do something so bizzare that most will see that he has a major mental problem

    January 12, 2011 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  2. patcee

    Sen. Sanders is one of the few real statesmen left. It is an insult to say he is pandering for contributions by expressing his views on the recent Arizona tragedy. His newsletters always contain comments on what is going on in our country. The fact that he included thanks for support from his constituents is not important. The politicians saying he is using the victims for personal gain are the same ones using all the violent talk Sen Sanders wrote about.

    January 12, 2011 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  3. ddt

    A vote on Health Care repeal is a vote to incite voilence by the Republicans.They have done it before they will to it again The assasin had a motive to kill. He planned it while listening to baker on Fox news and many conseratives on radio and tvs. This guy is against Govt amd he used his political rights to buy a gun and go killl. Pathetic. Gun control is a political issue those who say that the motive was not political you are fooling yourselves.Sarah Palin huh?

    January 12, 2011 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
  4. James Mason

    The only thing astonishing in this piece, is that a Republican claimed they would "leave it up to the voters".

    January 12, 2011 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  5. TSRVT

    Senator Sanders is spot on. The AZ political climate is absolutely rife with violence, and 99% of it emanates from the far right. To simply pretend this is not the case does a disservice to all Arizonans and all Americans, especially those who died last weekend.

    January 12, 2011 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  6. Albo58

    Just when you think this communist Sanders couldn't be anymore pathetic, he turns into a ghoul and starts putting tip jars at funerals! Vermont can certainly find a more rational representative, can't they?

    January 12, 2011 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  7. jules sand-perkins

    Republican spokesperson Brian Walsh lost my attention with the phrase, "donations off of the murder."

    January 12, 2011 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  8. dont care what you Demoncrates say

    just another Dem that uses threats and corruption to scare people to their way of socialist agenda thinking and to tempt people to stray from the constitution and the American Dream. If this man truely was to honor the victims he would have not sent such a sinful email, may God show you the way of your sinful retoric and may you repent of your sinful ways.

    January 12, 2011 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  9. Marie MD

    Sorry but ex-self proclaimed mavericks don't get involved regarding guns or threats to AZ politicians (or any politicians) because, after all, he unleashed the worst person of the century on the US in 2008. One who is front and center and whom he allowed to spread her hate and lies. He seems to be traveling or out "touch" when things happen that he should speak up against. This is a shooting in his state and he can't take the time?

    January 12, 2011 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  10. mac316

    Wasnt there something about TONING down the libs cant let it go that this guy that did the killing is a nutjob loon whacko. This amounts to hate speech as much as anything the right puts out oh yea he is an ind. so that doesnt count huh? So am I an I still think this is hate speech

    January 12, 2011 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  11. joyost

    Every politician asks for "voters continued support " and $ in EVERY communication they send out. It's the boilerplate closing to thier letters. It's ridiculous to accuse him of using this terrible tragedy for fundrasing. THis guy is one of the most reasonable politicans there is out there. The Republicans don't like what he said, don't want to deal with the subject. Instead of responding to WHAT he said, they ignore the subject by make accusations as to his motives. This is EXACTLY what he was talking about !!

    January 12, 2011 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  12. Catie

    Where was all of this political outrage when protestors were burning effigies of President Bush. The left are a bunch of hyporcrits! When they spew their hate it is free speech when a right says something its hate speech . Being able to bear arms is not what drove this looney ( and not a right wing looney I will add) to do what he did. You idiots. You can take away the weapons of law abiding citizens then all you have left with weapons are the crazies. Wake up, its a different world.

    January 12, 2011 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  13. Dawn

    Look Bernie I have been a fan, but when the tea party put out a letter asking for funds from the backers using this tragedy, I thought it was horrible and when you are now reported doing it, I find it just as horrible. To use this tragedy to raise funds is wrong. My suggestion, come out, apologize and use your own money to donate to these families to help bury their children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters......Do the right thing here.

    January 12, 2011 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  14. Ain't life strange?

    you gotta love Bernie... always hitting the nail on the head. And that what disturbs his opponents.

    January 12, 2011 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  15. J. Keffelew

    Senator Sanders is exactly on point. There is no denial about the fact that Arizona has always been a haven for far right reactionary, wing nut idiots. These idiots have always had an infatuation with guns and given Arizona,s liberal gun laws, what better place to hang out than in Arizona.

    January 12, 2011 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  16. 2+2=5

    Damn right, step up and be counted. All you fools with your propaganda that has zero substance, such as calling Obama a terrorist and saying he supports terrorism and blah blah blah. Now just like little FN kids your seeing the consequences of your actions, and these are people we want in power America? boy are you going stupid faster than we can think straight. Stop denying it people, this country is going so far to the right even with a liberal president that its disgusting, we are lucky we still have our freedom of speech for gods sake. Wake up, or shut up!!! You either know, or you don't, it's time to take responsibility and quit playing games before we are fighting your kids to the ground for shooting up another official. This is the most insanely immature period of time I've ever seen in my lifetime in America. People have forgotten to read. T.v. is God. You want to end the corruption? turn the t.v. off, put your gun down, and go vote losers. This is a Democracy, look it up!!! It's flowers vs. Armed populace, are we really going to debate this?!? grow up America!!!

    January 12, 2011 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  17. john, PA

    The easiest way to create a safe environment for people is to get the government out of our lives. Let’s start with:
    Repealing every law passed by the last Democratic-controlled congress!
    Repealing every regulation put into place by the Obama administration!
    Remove every “zar” put into place by the Obama administration!
    Getting the government out of private companies!
    Cut taxes!
    Close the border!
    End ear marks!
    It’s time for the new Congress to investigate, prosecute and put these people in prison.

    January 12, 2011 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  18. Terry

    Sadly, Sanders is no different than the Freshman Members of Congress who held a fund raiser the evening of their first day in office. It is all about the next election, not current issues.

    January 12, 2011 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  19. RufusVonDufus

    Somebody needs to ask this old fool when the last time a Dem put a bullseye over a Repub controlled district in an effort to defeat them in an election. Also, ask him about the movie about killing President Bush and the vitriiol spewed nightly by MSNBC. I'll bet he'll plead ignorance. That would be perfect for him.

    January 12, 2011 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  20. John

    Seems to have been reasonable.

    January 12, 2011 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  21. rdepontb

    Dear Senators and Representatives of All Stripes,

    Peter King's proposal to limit gun carrying within 1,000 feet of our political leaders is one of the best-reasoned actions in some time. It _should_ have broad, multi-partisan support at the least. I fully agree that its aims are to protect our general populace-as in the Tucson tragedy, for example, most victims were NOT politicians, but citizens engaging in our most civil rights.

    As for Bernie Sanders' and other politicians' staffs including fund-raising attempts in messaging intended to bring down the rhetoric and return us to an era of mutual respect and civil conversation-KNOCK IT OFF. Fund-raising pleas have their place, but that certainly cannot be on the backs of our shared tragedies or those of any one of our faithful citizens.

    January 12, 2011 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  22. Karen

    Sanders, a far-left avowed socialist, is using rhetorical hate speech without the facts and trying to raise money. This is the lowest form of human behavior.

    January 12, 2011 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  23. Jonsie

    Politics as usual! If you he really wanted people to tone down the rhetoric, he would just shut-up! Maybe he should go back and look at some of his speeches before he starts spouting his self-righteous bs!

    January 12, 2011 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  24. American

    Would CNN ask if the NRSC acknowledges hypocrisy and double standard of the Tea Party Express sending out a direct fundraiser off this tragedy on Monday? Soliciting for their 'biggest' fundraising day ever?? Political campaigns should be on hold, no matter how unintentional, out of respect.

    January 12, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  25. Name king

    Lesson a lot of people try to act like this wasn't driven by politics, this man wasn't senselessly deranged their was a motive behind his actions, some people tolerance of political rederics are stronger than some, every body is not on the same tolerance state, this man obviously was over came by the rederics that was so overwhelming during the last election, especially in Arizona, where people screamed about the government taking away their constitutional rights, led by the tea party that wanted to take their government back from something which I don't know yet but still researching to find out, and Sarah Palin and her anti- government millicia husband Tod, whipped the country in a anti-government movement never seen before in modern history. And they are surprised that their was a political assassination that had taken place, leave that theory to those folks you have whipped into so much anti-government frenzy they still haven't got back to reality. The fact still remains we've got rational thinking people left in this country, and they see differently.

    January 12, 2011 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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