Republican reactions to the mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs Friday continue to emerge at a bare trickle, but none of them have been all that surprising. On Sunday morning's This Week, fading Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson followed the victim-blaming template set forth by Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger while the shootings were still going on. Like Kinzinger, Carson was asked to react to a statement from the state director of Planned Parenthood, and his reply was oddly familiar:
RADDATZ: Dr. Carson, the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain Vicki Cowart said that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country.
Do you agree with that?
CARSON: Unfortunately, there's a lot of extremism coming from all areas. It's one of the biggest problems that I think is threatening to -- to tear our country apart. We -- we get into our separate corners and we hate each other, we want to destroy those with whom we disagree.
It comes from both sides. So, you know, there is -- there is no saint here in this -- in this equation.
But what we really have to start asking ourselves is what can we do as a nation to rectify this situation?
How can we begin to engage in rational discussion?
You know, all you have to do is go to the -- an article on the Internet and go to the comments section, you don't get five comments down before people start calling each other names and acting like idiots, you know.
Aside from the obvious differences, like the fact that no cops have ever been killed in a comments section or that no one from Planned Parenthood is making up stories about watching a movie in which Republicans commit a murder, Carson's reply bears an almost verbatim similarity to another instance of victim-blaming: Mgyn Kelly's assessment of the 15 year-old girl who was assaulted by a cop in McKinney, Texas in June:
“The girl was no saint, either. He had told her to leave, and she continued to linger. When a cop tells you to leave, get out.”
In Carson's case, it's a little bit unclear just who these non-saints on the Planned Parenthood side are, but for his part, Ben Carson has said that women should be forced to carry rape and incest pregnancies to term, and that women experiencing a life-threatening pregnancy may be permitted to plead for their lives.
Carson's Republican stablemate Carly Fiorina (currently complaining about the success of her campaign against Planned Parenthood) has been the most famously vocal in slandering Planned Parenthood with her false claim that she's seen video of a living fetus awaiting organ harvest, but almost every Republican is implicated in promoting the myth that Planned Parenthood "sells baby parts." They held congressional hearings on the matter in which they all repeated that claim, a claim which has now reportedly been cited by the shooter himself, but refuted by multiple investigations.
There's an honest point to be made about the emotionally heated way that certain issues in this country get discussed, but that point is in no way relevant here. Activists and advocates often frame issues important to them in life-and-death terms, so it's tempting for the media to accept this "both sides" premise, one which is already tied in to their journalistic erogenous zones. In particular, abortion-rights activists talk about a War on Women, but then, some of these guys literally want to make women die in order to support their agenda.
Still, it's easier to throw up your hands and say "both sides" than it is to examine the facts and take a stand that will get you yelled at. I don't expect the media to go around saying that Carly Fiorina got a cop killed, but what I do expect is that they recognize the key difference in the "rhetoric" that separates Fiorina et al from passionate advocates on the other side.
These people, and Fiorina especially, have demonstrably lied about Planned Parenthood, and the killer is now citing that lie. That doesn't absolve him of the crime, or mitigate the many other actors that contributed to it, but it does clearly demonstrate there is a world of difference between overheated "rhetoric" and poisonous blood libel. Here's hoping the media gets that, even if Ben Carson doesn't.
Cross-posted from Mediaite