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DNC chief accused of blaming Tea Party for Giffords shooting

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FILE: July 30, 2011: Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz speaks to reporters following a Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP

Tea Party and Republican leaders are blasting the Democratic Party chief after she invoked the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords while scolding the Tea Party for its "lack of civility."

The comments revived a bitter political debate that flared immediately following the January 2011 tragedy. Though Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz did not directly blame the Tea Party for the shooting, conservative groups claimed that was the implication. 

In turn, Wasserman-Schultz''s remarks on toning things down ended up fueling the very type of incivility she warned against. 

Wasserman-Schultz made that point on her Twitter page, after denying a claim by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that she was "blaming the Tea Party for the horrific (Tucson) shooting." 

"I'd NEVER politicize Tucson-my close friend was shot. Your comment=lack of civility was talking about," she tweeted. 

Still, one of her deputies at the DNC threw himself into the fray -- and ratcheted things up a notch or two in the process. 

"Would it kill you folks in the Republican Party to stop making crap up," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse tweeted. 

Then he retweeted a response from Democratic strategist Greg Pinelo, saying: "Actually, it would kill them to tell the truth. So much of their politics is predicated on lies." 

Finally, Woodhouse retweeted the following from another politico: "Priebus needs jaws tightened 4 his bs." 

Wasserman-Schultz uttered the initial offending remarks during a political discussion in New Hampshire on Wednesday

Asked about the lack of civility in Congress, she brought up the Giffords shooting. 

"We need to make sure that we tone things down, particularly in light of the Tucson tragedy from a year ago, where my very good friend, Gabby Giffords -- who is doing really well, by the way," she said. "But the discourse in America, the discourse in Congress in particular ... has really changed, and I'll tell you. I hesitate to place blame, but I have noticed it take a very precipitous turn towards edginess and a lack of civility with the growth of the Tea Party movement." 

She cited the Republican wave in the 2010 congressional elections and lamented the "conduct at those town hall meetings" before the elections. 

"I've never seen a time that was more divisive or where discourse was less civil," she said. "What the Tea Party has done is they have taken it to a different level, and so when they come and disagree with you, you're not just wrong, you're the enemy." 

The Independence Hall Tea Party Association took issue with the remarks. 

"It's obvious that Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz is exploiting the Tuscon tragedy -- in which several bystanders were killed and several more were injured -- for purely partisan political gain," Association president Teri Adams said in a written statement. "Wasserman-Schultz and the Democrats know very well that the perpetrator of the Tucson shooting was an unstable individual with left-wing sympathies, someone whose world views were more Occupy than Tea Party." 

The Occupy Wall Street movement, of course, had not yet emerged at the time of the shooting and cannot be blamed either. 

Rather, gunman Jared Loughner's writing and comments from those who knew him suggest he did not fit neatly into either a liberal or conservative label. 

One former friend said last year that Loughner wasn't on the left or the right. 

Adams accused Wasserman-Schultz, by invoking the shooting to lecture the Tea Party, of trying to use the rampage "to discredit and defame a movement that had nothing to with it." 

Adams called the comments "extremely despicable" and urged her to apologize and step down as chairwoman. 

Priebus did not urge her to step down but did urge her to "apologize immediately for her reckless comments." 

The RNC, on its Twitter page, repeatedly accused Wasserman-Schultz of blaming the Tea Party for the shooting. 

But Woodhouse rejected the claims. Wasserman-Schultz would "never politicize Tucson. Was discussing civility in politics as transcript shows," he wrote.