Sheriff Dupnik: politicizing mass murder

I love Fox News anchorwoman Megyn Kelly, and not just because she’s a delectable piece of eye candy. She is one of the most effective interviewers in television news today, and I suspect that her background as a litigator has a lot to do with it.

As a young reporter I once covered a high-profile medical malpractice trial, and after the plaintiff’s expert witness had testified, I was sure the jury was going to find for the plaintiff. Then the defense attorney went to work, not in the manner of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, where he kept hammering Jack Nicholson over and over again with the same question, “Did you order a Code Red?”, but by gently encouraging the witness to go beyond his earlier testimony, until what had once seemed plausible started sounding absurd. The attorney had obviously studied the witness thoroughly — had read articles he had written, speeches he had given, and testimony he had given in other trials — and knew he could count on an enormous ego to lead the witness to places a man who thought more humbly of himself would never go. And he won his case.

On Sunday Kelly interviewed Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik right after charges were filed against Jared Loughner, the prime suspect in Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Dupnik, as you may know if you read my Sunday post on the subject (or if you’ve been following the news), decided to interject his personal political opinions and tried to tie the shooting to “the vitriol that comes out of certain people’s mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country [which is] is getting to be outrageous”.

Kelly approached her interview like a litigator examining a hostile witness, and I have to say, it was a masterful performance. Like the defense attorney in that long-ago malpractice trial, she kept feeding the sheriff plenty of rope, until finally he hanged himself with it. (Note to paranoid liberal readers: this is a METAPHOR, not a call to hang Sheriff Dupnik!).

Here’s the video. The relevant portion starts at 1:40 when Kelly asks Dupnik, “Was there something about Congresswoman Giffords, as far as your investigation shows, that set him (the suspected killer, Jared Loughner) off?”

After Dupnik responded to that question with essentially the same explanation he gave the previous day — that “vitriol got a lot of people agitated” — Kelly zeroed in on his answer:

Right. I wanted to ask you about that. That’s something you’ve mentioned in the past couple of days. And I just want to ask you whether there’s anything you’ve uncovered in your investigation so far that suggests the suspected killer was listening to radio or watching television and in any way inspired by what he heard or saw.

Dupnik dissembled and talked instead about the letter from Giffords that was found in a safe in Loughner’s parents’ house. Kelly wouldn’t let him off the hook that easily:

What I’m wondering is, do you have reason to believe that this particular suspected killer was taking in information or was in any way influenced by the vitriol or the rhetoric that you’re referring to that has been out on the airwaves?

Kelly got an answer this time. Dupnik admitted that he had no such information. But then he returned to his “vitriol” theme, so Kelly moved in for the kill. (Hey, paranoid liberals. This is another METAPHOR! I’m not talking about actual killing!) Here’s the exchange:

DUPNIK: there’s no doubt in my mind that when a number of people night and day try to inflame the public, that there’s going to be some consequences from doing that.

KELLY: It sounds like you’re being very honest, but that’s just your speculation, and it’s not anything that’s fact-based at this point?

DUPNIK: That’s my opinion, period.

Bullseye! (Another METAPHOR, liberals!) Most journalists wouldn’t have gone even that far. But Kelly wasn’t finished with him yet. Under further questioning she brought out the fact that Dupnik is a Democrat, and then Dupnik himself revealed just how partisan a Democrat he is and went on a tangent, rambling on about how “millions of dollars are filtered into this country to buy very vitriolic ads and they don’t have to be identified, the countries that they’re coming from or the people who are donating them” and “one party trying to block the attempts of another party to make this a better country”.

By the end of that interview, Dupnik had forfeited whatever credibility he once may have had. Noel Sheppard provides a more thorough dissection of this interview on NewsBusters, and provides a partial transcript as well. You can read it here.

After being thoroughly handled by Megyn Kelly, you’d think Dupnik would know better than to give anymore interviews, or, if he does, to stick to the facts of the case. However, that very night he went on Geraldo At Large, also on Fox News, and made an even bigger fool of himself. Perhaps he thought the more liberal Geraldo Rivera would go easier on him.

This time Dupnik named names, repeating the lie that Sharron Angle had advocated “Second Amendment remedies (actually, she said she hoped the American people would not have reason to resort to them — see my post on this back in July), and falsely accusing Sarah Palin of saying “we have people like Gabby Giffords in our crosshairs” (no, she had those Congressional districts in “our crosshairs”).

Here’s the video:

That was, as far as I know, the last interview Dupnik gave to anybody from Fox News. He declined Bill O’Reilly’s invitation to appear on the O’Reilly Factor on Monday. In fact, at the very moment O’Reilly was reporting this fact (in a conversation with Bernard Goldberg), the sheriff was over at MSNBC repeating his wild charges to Keith Olbermann. He was on Chris Matthews’s Hardball on MSNBC on Tuesday, again making his wild charges.

Doesn’t Sheriff Dupnik realize that he’s not only being very unprofessional, but also is making a complete ass of himself? He sounds more and more ridiculous every time he gets in front of a microphone. If he can’t get through an interview without bringing up the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, he would be smart to stop giving them.

However, there may be a method in his madness. Tucson blogger James Kelley charges that

The sheriff has been editorializing and politicizing the event since he took the podium to report on the incident. His blaming of radio personalities and bloggers is a pre-emptive strike because Mr. Dupnik knows this tragedy lays at his feet and his office. Six people died on his watch and he could have prevented it. He needs to step up and start apologizing to the families of the victims instead of spinning this event to serve his own political agenda . . . Jared Loughner has been making death threats by phone to many people in Pima County including staff of Pima Community College, radio personalities and local bloggers. When Pima County Sheriff’s Office was informed, his deputies assured the victims that he was being well managed by the mental health system

So, is Sheriff Dupnik making “vitriol” and “climate of hate” accusations in order to create a red herring to deflect attention from his own department’s culpability? It is difficult to say for sure. Kelley, in a later post, reports that “anyone in Law Enforcement or Mental Health in Pima County that ever had contact with Mr. Loughner is now in bunker mode. Everyone is afraid of lawsuits down the road.”

Whatever the story, we already know enough about Dupnik, just from what he has said, to know he should not be directing this investigation. In fact, he should not even be sheriff, but it’s up to the citizens of Pima County to remove him. (Hey, paranoid progressive liberals, by “remove”, I mean by peaceful, legal means!) Although he may have 50 years of law enforcement experience, he has revealed himself to be just another leftist ideologue. In fact, he revealed that last year when he accused his fellow Arizonans of being racists and declared that he would direct his deputies not to enforce Arizona’s new immigration law.

5 thoughts on “Sheriff Dupnik: politicizing mass murder”

  1. Sheriff Dupnik is entitled to voice his opinion (he doesn’t represent it as anything other than his opinion) in this country, and 50 years of law enforcement experience lends weight to it.

    Civility in political discourse has long been a subject of discussion; nothing new in that. In a broader context, I happen to think Dupnik’s right. Vitriolic speech may not have had anything to do with Loughner’s decision, but, when you have people being disrespectful, like Keith Olbermann routinely calling Sarah Palin “Caribou Barbie,” and an elected official calling the president a “liar” in the middle of the State of the Union address, it’s easy to understand how people might take offense. Do you not believe it’s possible to incite people to violence through rhetoric?

    Also, I believe the FBI is directing the investigation, not the sheriff’s department.

  2. Excuse me… perhaps it’s Ed Schultz and not Olbermann who calls Palin “Caribou Barbie.” Same thing, really… very annoying!

  3. Dupnik is not speaking as a private citizen in these interviews. He is speaking as a law enforcement officer. As such, he should stick to the facts. Several other Arizona sheriffs have criticized Dupnik for making these statements, because they can make it more difficult to get a conviction.

    I believe the FBI is directing the investigation, not the sheriff’s department.

    While the murder of Judge Roll and the attempted murder of Rep. Giffords will probably be tried in Federal court, the murders of the other victims come under state jurisdiction.

  4. I’ll concede that Dupnik, perhaps, shouldn’t have voiced his opinion because it might be perceived as being representative of the official position of law enforcement or indicative of some specific evidence they may have found, but his words have a ring of truth to them; vitriolic and inflamatory language do raise the temperature in any debate. In the end, he is accountable not to you or me, but the people of Pima County. If they have a problem with him, they can vote him out of office.

    I doubt we’ll ever know whether or not Loughner was influenced by what he might have read or heard, but I do know that people, either through carelessness or intent, raise the level of emotion in discussions all of the time. I happen to think, and, as you well know, have thought for a long time, that we need to return to a higher level of civility in our discourse, not just our political discourse, but in all of our discourse. As JFK said in his inaugural address: “civility is not a sign of weakness.”

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