Within hours of the deadly rampage in Arizona on Saturday, several liberal commentators rushed to the conclusion that the gunman must have been influenced by the inflammatory rhetoric of tea party activists, Sarah Palin and others on the right.
Within those first hours, and the days after, the nation's focus should have been on the victims – U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the attack, and the 18 other people who were either killed or wounded. By speculating on motives and rushing toward an indictment, tea party critics attempted to exploit a national tragedy for their own purposes.
Sadly, the Tea Party Express is engaged in its own form of exploitation in the aftermath of this carnage. On Tuesday morning the group e-mailed a fundraising plea – "Please stand with Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh + Tea Party" – that urged supporters to help it raise money so it could counter "the attack on conservatives."
"Many in the media and the political Left are nonetheless still trying to use this awful tragedy to make people think that somehow Limbaugh, Palin and the tea party were responsible for this attack," the e-mail reads.
"They are doing it for one reason: It is an attempt to silence us and make this patriotic, constitutionalist movement controversial – so they can try and stop the momentum this tea party movement has built."
Hold on a moment: Weren't the real victims of Saturday's shooting the 19 people killed or wounded and their families, friends and co-workers? Reading the Tea Party Express' fundraising plea, you might think otherwise.
"Guess what, friends – we are not going to back down. Not when we have nothing to apologize for, and certainly we won't just sit back while the media and liberals think they can slander us by calling us responsible for mass murder."
Nothing to apologize for?
For more than a year, tea party activists have accused President Obama and other opponents of nothing short of treason. Their followers have openly carried guns to rallies. Their leaders have talked of "Second Amendment solutions." Sarah Palin and others have used militarist language, including a tweet to followers last year: "Don't Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!"
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