You are hereWashington Post: Sheriff Dupnik's criticism of political 'vitriol' resonates with public

Washington Post: Sheriff Dupnik's criticism of political 'vitriol' resonates with public


January 9, 2011- Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who is overseeing the investigation of Saturday's mass shooting that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), became an overnight sensation with his remarks that the "vitriol" in today's political discourse contributed to the incident and that Arizona has become "a mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Dupnik's name was a top search term on Twitter Saturday night, with many of the tweets thanking him for his candor, and overnight, a Facebook page titled "Clarence Dupnik is my Hero" sprung up.

In a news conference Saturday evening, Dupnik condemned the "atmosphere of hatred and bigotry" that he said has gripped the nation and suggested that the 22-year-old suspect being held in the shooting was mentally ill and therefore more susceptible to overheated messages in the media.

"There's reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol," he said during his televised remarks. "People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."

His remarks especially resonated with liberals, who even before the name of the suspect was released suggested that the shooter may have had been incited by the tea party. There is no indication that the suspect, Jared Lee Lougner, identified with the tea party or was politically conservative. During the campaign, liberal pundits and politicians asserted that the sometimes militant language some conservative politicians used could incite violence.

MSNBC talk show host Keith Olbermann, who acknowledged and apologized for his role in the acrimonious political climate, praised Dupnik's "extraordinary" comments at the close of his show on Saturday. Dupnik's remarks drew criticism from conservatives.

"We have no idea at this point the motivation of this murderer's act. Yet Dupnik took his moment in the spotlight to drive a political wedge into the event," local conservative radio host Jon Justice said in an e-mail to the Tucson Weekly. "They were reckless and dangerous statements made by someone who should have known better. He should have been using his time to help bring the community together."

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