In June 2009, a depraved, elderly anti-Semite named James von Brunn gunned down a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent and lefty Center for American Progress think-tank fellow Matthew Yglesias immediately invoked the Obama administration's report on right-wing extremism, leading to a wider chorus of condemnations against the tea party, talk radio and the entire GOP. The truth? Von Brunn was an unstable, equal-opportunity hater and 9/11 Truther conspiracy loon who bashed Jews and Christians, George W. Bush and Fox News, and had also threatened the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.
In late August 2009, as lawmakers faced citizen revolts at health care town halls nationwide, the Colorado Democratic Party decried a window-smashing vandalism attack at its Denver headquarters. State Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak singled out tea party activists and blamed "people opposed to health care" for the attack. The perpetrator, Maurice Schwenkler, turned out to be a far-left transgender activist/single-payer anarchist who had worked for a labor union-tied political committee and canvassed for a Democratic candidate.
In September 2009, Bill Sparkman, a federal U.S. Census worker, was found dead in a secluded rural Kentucky cemetery with the word "Fed" scrawled on his chest with a rope around his neck. The Atlantic Monthly's Andrew Sullivan rushed to indict "Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts" in an online magazine post titled "No Suicide," which decried the "Kentucky lynching." Liberal author Richard Benjamin blamed "anti-government" bile. New York magazine fingered conservative talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh, "conservative media personalities, websites and even members of Congress." So, who killed Bill Sparkman? Bill Sparkman. He killed himself and deliberately manufactured a hate crime hoax as part of an insurance scam to benefit his surviving son.
In February 2010, ticking time-bomb professor Amy Bishop gunned down three of her colleagues at University of Alabama-Huntsville, and suicide pilot Joseph Andrew Stack flew a stolen small plane into an Austin, Texas, office complex that contained an Internal Revenue Service office. Mainstream journalists from Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart to Time magazine reporter Hilary Hylton leaped forward to tie the crimes to tea party rhetoric. Never mind that Bishop was an Obama-worshiping academic with a lifelong history of violence or that Stack was another Bush-hater outraged about everything from George W. Bush to the American medical system to the evils of capitalism to the city of Austin, the Catholic Church and airlines.
In May 2010, liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to preemptively pin the Times Square bombing attempt on "someone with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." The culprit was unrepentant Muslim jihadist Faisal Shahzad.
In August 2010, Democratic supporters of Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan blamed a "firebombing" at the congressman's St. Louis office on tea party suspects. The real perpetrator? Disgruntled progressive activist Chris Powers, who was enraged over a paycheck dispute.
President Obama wisely counseled the nation this week at the Tucson massacre memorial that "bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath." But as the progressive left's smear-stained recent history shows, criminalizing conservatism is a hard habit to break.