Friday on CNN, at the conclusion “CNN Newsroom” shortly before 1 p.m. EST, anchor Ashleigh Banfield ran a segment that urged caution in judging the motives of Floyd Corkins, who shot a guard at the Family Research Council’s Washington, D.C. building on Wednesday.
“I hate your politics ... that’s exactly what Floyd Corkins allegedly said right before shooting a security guard,” Banfield said in introducing the segment (the bar at the bottom of the screen read, “Political Motive Suspected In Shooting”).
Banfield emphasized “I”, “hate,” “your’, and “politics” to hammer home the shooter’s words.
Despite the shooter’s alleged own words, Banfield then had a discussion with a legal expert about how people should not rush to judge the potential motives of the shooter, because the shooter, for all anyone knows, could be deranged. Banfield then cited Jared Loughner, the person who shot former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords, as an example of an instance in which the whole picture was not known immediately after the incident.
In citing Loughner to urge caution in rushing to judgment about potential political motivations, Banfield was inadvertently indicting and denouncing her own network, which was the network that most egregiously jumped to conclusions about the motivations behind the Giffords shooting, falsely implicating the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.
The FRC shooter had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, worked with an LGBT group, shot a guard who worked for an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center tagged as a “hate group” for supporting traditional marriage, and allegedly said, “I don’t like your politics” before opening fire. Further, the shooter’s parents told the F.B.I. the shooter had “strong opinions” against those he did not believed treated “homosexuals in a fair manner.”
Consider all the evidence -- including the shooter’s own alleged words -- that CNN could have used to ascribe political motivations to the FRC shooter, compared to the complete lack of evidence in the Giffords shooting.
Immediately after Giffords was shot and Loughner was detained, Lougher was not cooperating with authorities. Nothing was known of him, let alone his motivations. Loughner did not have a Gadsden flag, which is the symbol of the Tea Party, or a picture of Obama as the joker, on his person when he shot Giffords. Those images were as much in the news in 2010 as Chick-Fil-A has been in the last month as a symbol of the debate over gay marriage and the politicization of it.
Yet, CNN, on the very night in which Giffords was tragically shot (Giffords was shot earlier in the day in the afternoon), January 8, 2011, immediately implicated Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.
Before the powder was even dry on the day Giffords was shot, CNN -- especially Jessica Yellin -- immediately made irresponsible inferences about the “political rhetoric that created the environment” they felt led to Giffords being shot.
Yellin gave no pause in rushing -- almost eagerly -- to note that she wanted to bring up the chatter that had been going on about whether Sarah Palin had influenced Loughner.
Yellin made a reference to a tweet of Palin’s in which Palin tweeted, “don’t retreat ... instead reload,” which was a reference to House members who voted for Obamacare Palin said needed to be defeated at the ballot box.
CNN then played an interview in which Giffords, who was one of the people on a list of people Palin had “targeted” to defeat in the 2010 midterm elections in which images associated with crosshairs/coordinates that had been used commonly by liberal and conservative groups were used, felt she had been targeted.
In the interview CNN aired, Giffords said, “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list ...” Giffords then, in the interview, said there were “consequences to that action.”
After all this damage had been done, Wolf Blitzer made the obligatory comments that there was no evidence to prove what CNN had just discussed. Yellin acknowledged there was “absolutely no evidence.” She added there also was “no evidence” the shooting was even inspired by healthcare. Gloria Borger started bobbing her head. But CNN just threw the Palin connection out there, irresponsibly maligning Palin with guilt she never deserved.
Loughner, it turned out, was not political. In fact, the only political connection Loughner had was when he claimed Giffords ignored him during a town hall meeting.
Yet, in discussing the FRC shooter, two days after the network reported three hours late on the shooting, Banfield gave the FRC shooter every benefit of the doubt she -- and CNN - has never afforded the Tea Party or any shooter that could potentially be linked to the right.
CNN played a clip from FRC president Tony Perkins’ press conference on Thursday in which Perkins said the Southern Poverty Law Center had essentially given the shooter a license to carry out these shootings. Banfield opined -- on the news network -- and referred to Perkins’ words as “fighting words” before reading a statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center that denounced Perkins’ words.
Banfield and Paul Callan, one of CNN’s legal experts, then cited John Hinckley’s assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan as another example of “why it’s so dangerous to politicize crimes early on.”
But the FRC shooting is different from the Hinckley case because the FRC shooter allegedly uttered a political statement that went straight to his motive, unlike Hinckley. Only later was it revealed that Hinckley said he shot Reagan to impress actress and Yale alumni Jodie Foster.
The one case Banfield cited in which a terrorist was motivated by an ideology was not one of the numerous instances of radical and militant Islamic terrorism but that of U.S. domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph. Of course, Banfield mentioned -- and emphasized -- that Rudolph was motivated by “Christian ideology.”
In concluding the segment, Banfield, while referring to the Giffords shooting, remarked: "We don't always know the picture right away.”
Her words of caution are most applicable to CNN.