WASHINGTON -- Shortly after 10 a.m. MST on Saturday, Jan. 8, an apparently unstable young man goes on a murderous rampage at a grocery in Tucson, Ariz. A federal judge and five others are murdered in cold blood. Thirteen others -- including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- are seriously injured. Those are the cold, hard facts.
It's a serious story. It begs the inevitable question: "How could this happen?" But instead of starting a dispassionate examination of the details, members of the mainstream media, politicians and pundits -- within minutes of the event -- began twisting the atrocity in Tucson. In the days since, exploitation of this tragedy has become a national pastime.
Understandably, in this era of "instant news," some of the first reports were simply wrong. We initially were told that Giffords had been "assassinated." And less than an hour later, the real spin began.
While victims still were being triaged by trauma teams at University Medical Center, we were "informed" that the killer was a "tea party activist" motivated to violence by "extremist right-wing rhetoric." Breathless reporters "notified" us that an accomplice or co-conspirator was being sought, and Arizona state Sen. Linda Lopez posited, "The shooter is likely, from what I've heard, an Afghan vet."
A day after the tragedy in Tucson, when we knew little more than the name of the accused perpetrator, an editorial in The New York Times claimed that "it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge." Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik went even further, claiming, "The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh" was to blame because it "angers" people "against government, angers them against elected officials." This sentiment was echoed by liberal pundits and columnists, many of whom indicted Sarah Palin, Republicans and conservative radio and television personalities for "fomenting the attack" and "opposing common-sense gun control laws," exacerbating the carnage.
It turns out that none of this is true. We now know that Jared Loughner, the accused killer, apparently acted alone, that there is no evidence he was influenced by "right-wing rhetoric" and that among his favorite readings is "The Communist Manifesto," hardly a conservative screed. We're now aware that the accused killer is not a veteran -- he was turned away by military recruiters when he tried to enlist in the Army -- and that while enrolled at Pima Community College, Loughner exhibited evidence of "bizarre behavior" and drug abuse.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.