Debbie Wasserman Schultz Did Not Blame The Tea Party For Giffords Shooting

Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

In a post on its Beltway Confidential blog today, The Washington Examiner falsely claimed that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz "blame[d] Tea Party for Tucson shooting":

Right-wing blogs have begun to spread the Examiner's false characterization of her comments.

Wasserman Schultz made the remarks in question at a breakfast in New Hampshire this morning, where she was asked about civility in politics. While she mentioned the Tea Party in the context of civility, it's simply not true that she "blame[d]" the Tea Party for last January's shooting in Tucson, Arizona, which killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Here is the question to Wasserman Schultz and the beginning of her response (full transcript below the jump):

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The American people are losing faith in Congress. [inaudible] because of the lack of civility. What do you think can be done to bring that faith back and then we can start thinking that they're doing their job instead of just fighting with each other?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, as someone who spent 19 years as a member of a legislative body, I really agree with you, that 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, and I know everybody is so thrilled, as I am, to hear that, making tremendous progress.

But the discourse in America, the discourse in Congress in particular, to answer your question, very specifically, 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.

After the 2010 elections, when you had the Tea Party elect a whole lot of their supporters to the United States House of Representatives and you had town hall meetings that they tried to take over and you saw some of their conduct at those town hall meetings, you know, in the time that I've been in my state legislature and in Congress, I've never seen a time that was more divisive or where discourse was less civil.

It shouldn't be surprising that Wasserman Schultz would think of her friend Giffords in response to such a question -- there was a national debate about incendiary rhetoric afterward.

Wasserman Schultz said that "we need to make sure that we tone things down, particularly in light of the Tucson tragedy," and then, after saying, "to answer your question," went on to say that the Tea Party is responsible in part for a decrease in civility. That is in no way the same as saying that the Tea Party is to blame for the shootings.

UPDATE: On the January 11 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said: "It's been widely reported that she is blaming the tea party for the Gabby Giffords shooting. When you hear what she says in full context, I don't think it's fair. I don't think that's what she was doing."

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The American people are losing faith in Congress. [inaudible] because of the lack of civility. What do you think can be done to bring that faith back and then we can start thinking that they're doing their job instead of just fighting with each other?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, as someone who spent 19 years as a member of a legislative body, I really agree with you, that 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, and I know everybody is so thrilled, as I am, to hear that, making tremendous progress.

But the discourse in America, the discourse in Congress in particular, to answer your question, very specifically, 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.

After the 2010 elections, when you had the Tea Party elect a whole lot of their supporters to the United States House of Representatives and you had town hall meetings that they tried to take over and you saw some of their conduct at those town hall meetings, you know, in the time that I've been in my state legislature and in Congress, I've never seen a time that was more divisive or where discourse was less civil.

It's one thing -- I've always had people come to my town hall meetings, for example, and say that they don't agree with me on something. And that's fine. And you know, that's what those town hall meetings are about, they're for civil discourse and give-and-take. And I learn something when I hear from a constituent who doesn't share my view, and hopefully they do also because we're listening to each other and there's a back and forth.

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 are the enemy. I mean, that's really a place that politics in America shouldn't go. And you know, when they disagree with you on an issue, you're not just wrong, you're a liar. Rather than just have a difference of opinion, accusations like that get hurled, and it brings the entire discourse down to a level that I think none of us want to see remain there.

So, I have done my part. I'll tell you that President Obama, you've seen, he's tried so hard to get the Republicans to work with him, to bring them to the table, to try to get them to compromise and find common ground, but when you have someone like Mitch McConnell, for example, the minority leader of the United States Senate, say at the outset of this Congress that his number one goal is not turning the economy around, not creating jobs, but to defeat Pres-- Barack Obama, well, then how are we going to reach compromise if that's the goal that drives them and all their decisions? Because then -- we won't.

Because if that's their goal, then anything that they do to compromise gives President Obama a win, a success, and makes it less likely in their minds that they would defeat him. Unfortunately, I think what has driven the Republicans in Congress is their interest in only one job, Barack Obama's, when Democrats have been fighting for American jobs.

And that's the difference. And that's going to be the choice that people have to make.

Posted In
Government, The House of Representatives
Network/Outlet
Washington Examiner
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.