John on November 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm
Rachel Maddow is deeply concerned about political violence, at least when it comes from the other side of the aisle. This week Maddow devoted an hour of her program to the murder of George Tiller, the Kansas area abortionist who was shot inside his church last year. The program made the argument that the killing wasn’t the fault of Scott Roeder who pulled the trigger, but of the pro-life “atmosphere of hatred” surrounding him. Maddow went on to suggest this was an act of domestic terrorism attributable to the extreme wing of the pro-life movement.
So what kind of atmosphere is surrounding Maddow’s own program? Well, earlier this month her fellow MSNBC host invited Ted Rall on to discuss the need for violent revolution in the United States. Rall was promoting his book in which he argues that the time for peaceful protest is over. To her credit, Maddow didn’t have Rall on her show, but she didn’t criticize him either. You can imagine her response if someone from the other side of the aisle had made a similar appeal on Fox News.
As it happens, you don’t even have to imagine it. A few days after Rall’s appearance on MSNBC, Maddow aired video of Florida radio talker Joyce Kaufman speaking to a group of Allen West supporters:
In the full clip, Kaufman goes on to say that the ballot box is the “only way” to send President Obama packing, but Maddow aired the edited clip five times over the next week. But it only took one airing to bring out a crazed response.
On Tuesday November 9th, Kaufman’s radio station received what appeared to be a letter of encouragement from one deranged person who wrote:
i’m planning something big around a government building here in Broward County, maybe a post office, maybe even a school, I’m going to walk in and teach all the government hacks working there what the 2nd amendment is all about….we’ll end this year of 2010 in a blaze of glory for sure.
Police noted that “whoever made the threat had been watching the MSNBC show, hours earlier, and heard Kaufman’s words.” The next day, a woman called Kaufman’s radio station claiming that the author of the letter was her husband. The threat was in earnest, she claimed. She warned that her husband was headed to a school in Pembroke Pines, FL to carry it out that very day. She begged for the chance to make an on-air plea to him not to do it. The threat led to a five hour lockdown of every school in Broward county, Florida as law enforcement and the FBI sought to track down the source of the letter. It would take nearly two weeks before an arrest was made.
In the meantime, the press was quick to make the connection between the threat to schools and Joyce Kaufman. Under a wave of negative press, Kaufman resigned from her position on Allen West’s staff and says she subsequently received death threats.
Eventually, the author of the threatening letter was discovered to be Ellisa Martinez, a member of the green party. She also appears to be the person who made the call to the radio station. Her husband, the one who was threatening schools, doesn’t exist. The entire thing was a prank designed to make Joyce Kaufman (and by extension Allen West) look like dangerous extremists. In other words, there is a sense in which Ellisa Martinez was just following Rachel Maddow’s lead.
Now, as a conservative believer in individual responsibility, I think it would be entirely reasonable to say that this woman is responsible for her own deranged actions. She wrote the letters and she made the phone call. So far as we know, she never met Rachel Maddow and certainly wasn’t instructed to do what she did by watching Maddow’s show. But I genuinely wonder if Ms. Maddow would offer the same sort of out for Glenn Beck or Sharon Angle or, for that matter, Joyce Kaufman had this turned out differently. Maybe she would have. Then again, maybe she’d just keep playing that clip over and over and claim not to understand why Allen West won’t appear on her show.
Perhaps the best thing to do is just ask Rachel directly. After all, she’s not the only person interested in dialogue about violent rhetoric. So, Rachel, if you ever want to clear up the connection between your show and the Broward county lockdown, I’d love to interview you. I’m easy to reach. I’ll even give you my first question: How you can devote 15 minutes to a statement by Joyce Kaufman to a few hundred people while ignoring the violent rantings of Ted Rall on your own network?
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