This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," January 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST OF “FOX NEWS WATCH”: One week ago, the peace was shattered in Tucson, Arizona, when a man with a gun started shooting people attending an event with Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Six people lost their lives, including a nine-year-old girl; more were injured, including Giffords, who took a bullet to the head.
At the time, Gabrielle Giffords' condition was unknown and the shooters name unknown and his motive unknown. But some in the media couldn't wait for the facts to begin pointing fingers apparently.
Fox's James Rosen tells us more.
JAMES ROSEN, FOX CORRESPONDENT: At 3:22 eastern time, Saturday, even before Jared Loughner had been named, Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist, blogged, "We don't have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, et cetera, and the violence I fear we're going to see in the months and years ahead."
Radio's top talker promptly pushed back.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: It's the same, lame, transparent, surely political attempt by the American left to do what they cannot persuade the American people to do, and that is support them.
ROSEN: In the attack on a political figure, many on the left were quick to find the political motive, and starting with the sheriff on the case, a Democrat who instantly blamed quote, unquote, "vitriol" from the right as a prime cause.
MEGYN KELLY, HOST OF “AMERICA LIVE”: It sounds like you're being very honest that that's just your speculation and that's not anything that's fact-based at this point?
CLARENCE DUPNIK, SHERIFF, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: That's my opinion, period.
ROSEN: Loughner's Internet ramblings never mentioned Limbaugh, Beck, the Tea Party, "FOX News," health care or Sarah Palin.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN: We've got to be careful here that we don't use this as a censoring moment or use this as a Democrats beating up on Republicans or using it as an opportunity to humiliate anybody who’s affiliated with the Tea Party movement.
ROSEN: And yet, the number-two Democrat in the senate, Dick Durbin, swiftly faulted Palin for using hunting metaphors. And many liberals cited this so-called cross-hairs campaign map that Palin's political action committee put out last year. They overlooked this highly similar map put out by the Democratic Leadership Council in 2004.
SARAH PALIN,R-FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: My heart broke for the innocent victims.
ROSEN: In an eight-minute Facebook video, nearly 1,200 words long, Sarah Palin rejected liberal charges that her rhetoric played some role in inciting the Arizona gunman to murder.
PALIN: Acts of monstrous criminalities stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle.
ROSEN: But Palin's claim that her critics were engaging in quote, "blood libel," provoked still more controversy. The term dates to the middle ages and refers to the hateful myth that Jews kill Christian children and use their blood in religious rituals.
JONAH GOLDBERG,EDITOR-AT-LARGE, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: If I would have been her copy editor, I would have come up with a different phrase.
That said, if it hadn't been that phrase, it would have been something else. At some point, Palin's critics have made it very clear that, if nothing else, they would go after the use of semicolons in her statement.
ROSEN (on camera): By week's end, there was word that the public agreed with Palin. A CBS News poll found a clear majority of Americans, 52-37 percent, didn't believe the countries, quote; "harsh political tone" had anything to do with the massacre in Tucson.
In Washington, James Rosen, for "Fox News Watch."
SCOTT: Let's talk about it. It seemed, at least in the early going, blame enough to go around.
Jim, what about the sheriff, Sheriff Dupnik? Having a sheriff's officer there might have stopped some this carnage. And yet, he was blaming everybody but himself.
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Yes, he was frankly astonishing, what he said. He gave frankly a hook for the media, which wanted to do it anyway, to blame this on Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party and so on. But Dupnik said it, and it was news. It was outrageous. He had no evidence, as Megyn Kelly said at the time, he had no evidence. He's had no evidence since. And all the evidence, in fact, undercuts what he's saying. The more we learn about Loughner, the more we realize he was that classic lone gunman was just apolitical in his own nuttiness. And I'm sure that Dupnik will now get a gig at NPR or MSNBC.
SCOTT: And yet, don't you think that because of some of the early coverage, Judy, there are a lot of people that think that he is some -- I don't know, motivated by right wing ideology shooter?
JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: That's the unfortunate affect of the early coverage. It was less than two hours after the incident that Paul Krugman posted the first posting on The New York Times web site saying, oh, well, you know, this is -- we don't know yet, but it's probably political. And a lot of the networks have spent time undoing the facts they initially reported, especially, for example, NPR, which is usually very cautious, but which reported that Representative Giffords was dead. And then they had to walk that back. It was just a real rush to judgment, absent facts. It was not a great moment for the media.
SCOTT: Lynn, by the time the A.P. got the spelling of Loughner's name right, it was already citing Sarah Palin and the so-called ire of the right.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN TIMES & COLUMNIST, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Let's give the A.P. credit that they withheld any report that Representative Giffords was deceased because they had some very good reporters there who had good, instincts and knew that their sources had not learned that firsthand.
I think when you talk about the first hours of any incident, I know -- and my journalistic roots are on the streets and it's very hard to get a story put together. Most of the facts are hard to come by. So I think what you heard in the first hours, I would cut people slack. When you talk about someone like a Krugman, people who have the luxury of having an opinion, well, that's when I think the criticism is better leveled, when they write about things that they don't have a fact base to support it on.
SCOTT: Bill, one of the things that struck me was that there were banner headlines on the -- I don't know -- maybe second or third day that suggested that this guy had held a grudge or some kind of a beef against the Congressman since maybe 2007. If that's the case, that predates this whole campaign season and the last two years of the Obama administration.
BILL MCGOWAN, AUTHOR: It does. It pre-dates Sarah Palin and it predates the Tea Party. His grudge sounds like it was not particularly political in nature or ideological in nature. She slighted him supposedly. We don't even -- this hasn't been nailed down yet. But she slighted him somehow at a rally when he asked a question and she responded in Spanish. He had asked a kind of rambling question that she couldn't understand. So he did take this as a personal affront. But there was no ideological content to this.
SCOTT: So is it a case of don't let the facts get in the way of the headline you want to write?
PINKERTON: Exactly. And Byron York at the The Washington Examiner made a good point. He said, look, when the Ft. Hood shooting happened back in 2009, a guy yelling "Allah Akbar" fires and kills 13 American service personnel, the media were quick, oh, no, no rush to judgment here, no conspiracies, no nothing, isolated lone gunman. And at the same time, this exact incident, they were even quicker to say, yes, absolutely, something here to be investigated.
MCGOWAN: That's part of a pattern, particularly when it comes to any kind of Islamist plot. The fact that they might be doing -- they might be motivated by Islamic jihadists’ extremism is usually the last thing mentioned. We --