On Tuesday's Early Show, correspondent Ben Tracy acknowledged that the facts in the Tuscon shooting do not support media spin that the tragedy was incited by right-wing political rhetoric: "Authorities tell CBS News that Loughner's attack on Congresswoman Giffords' was not partisan, but more likely because he was anti-government in general and she was a symbol of it."
Minutes later, co-host Erica Hill reported on a new CBS News poll on the shooting: "The Sheriff [Clarence Dupnik] investigating the shootings in Arizona has publicly blamed the extreme political rhetoric across this country for the tragedy....A majority of Americans, however, don't necessarily agree that's the case....57% of respondents don't believe the harsh tone had anything to do with the shootings. Just 32% say it did." At the top of the 8:00AM ET hour, news reader Jeff Glor again touted the new poll: "...there's more debate over whether a heated political atmosphere played a role....most Americans reject that idea."
In contrast to the reporting of this new information, CBS, like rest of the media, was more that willing to engage in speculation and demagoguery over the notion that conservative political speech had contributed to the violence. As NewsBusters' Editor at Large Brent Baker earlier reported, on Saturday's Evening News, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes claimed: “Giffords was one of 20 Democrats whose districts were lit up in cross hairs on a Sarah Palin campaign Web site last spring....Giffords and many others complained that someone unstable might act on that imagery."
In addition, on Sunday's Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer observed: "You know, Congresswoman Giffords had received threats before. That's something that we might have overlooked here. Her office was trashed during the health care debate. When she showed up on Sarah Palin's political action committee Web site as one of those who had been targeted for defeat, it shows her in the cross hairs there. She warned herself that this kind of thing could have serious repercussions."
On Monday's Early Show, Cordes proclaimed: "Now some are questioning whether the increasingly angry tone in politics could have contributed to a culture of violence." Talking to Giffords' communications director C.J. Karamargin on Monday, Hill asked: "There's been the [Pima County] Sheriff [Clarence Dupnik], has brought up the rhetoric....Which he feels is incredibly damaging....Do you see a change in the rhetoric in this country?"
Here is a full transcript of Tracy's January 11 report:
ERICA HILL: We do want to turn our focus again to Tucson, which is this morning preparing to say good-bye to the victims of Saturday's deadly rampage. A mass is planned for this evening. President Obama will attend a memorial service tomorrow. CBS News national correspondent Ben Tracy is in Tucson with more. Ben, good morning.
BEN TRACY: Good morning, Erica. Seven of the shooting victims are still here at the University Medical Center this morning. And you know, while so many people are just trying to process this tragedy, we're learning a whole lot more about the alleged gunman. As the FBI meticulously scoured what is still very much a crime scene here in Tucson, the nation paused.
SCOTT KELLY: We're better than this.
TRACY: From the heights of outer space, where Gabrielle Giffords' brother-in-law Scott is on the International Space Station.
KELLY: We must do better.
TRACY: To the cold reality of planet earth, the President, who will travel to Tucson tomorrow, led the nation in a moment of silence and prayer. The alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner smiled for his mug shot. He appeared in federal court for the first time Monday, charged with five counts of murder and attempted murder.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tragedy in Tucson; New Details Emerging of Alleged Shooter]
STEVEN CATES: He was not on the same level as everyone else.
TRACY: Former classmate Steven Cates says Loughner was a loner and mentally unstable. He feared Loughner would bring a gun to class some day and shoot everyone. Cates tried to make friends with him so he would not get shot.
CATES: He would clench his fists and grin. During random times throughout class he would just laugh to himself.
TRACY: Perhaps even odder is the makeshift altar with the skull, discovered in Loughner's backyard.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [911 CALL]: A guy came to the Safeway and started shooting.
TRACY: Authorities tell CBS News that Loughner's attack on Congresswoman Giffords' was not partisan, but more likely because he was anti-government in general and she was a symbol of it. He may also have been upset after asking Giffords a question at a 2007 event that she did not answer. Friends say Loughner never forgot it. After being shot point blank in the head, the Congresswoman is still in the ICU. But doctors remain optimistic.
DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE [CHIEF OF NEUROSURGERY, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER]: With regard to Congresswoman Giffords' recovery, at this phase in the game, no change is good. And we have no change.
TRACY: But for the families of the victims, everything has changed. Now, President Obama is set to arrive here late tomorrow afternoon. He's set to meet with some of the families of the shooting victims, and then possibly attend a memorial service that is being held tomorrow night at the University of Arizona. Erica.
HILL: Ben Tracy in Tucson this morning. Ben, thanks.
— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.