Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Blaming media in California gun rampage is nuts

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
updated 7:19 AM EST, Mon February 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An 11-page manifesto from accused gunman comments on TV personalities
  • Howard Kurtz says it's foolish to pay attention to media preferences of the suspect
  • He says some see the situation as payback for criticism of Palin after Giffords shooting
  • Kurtz: What difference does it make which politicians, pundits the suspect admires?

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- It was strange -- and strangely creepy -- to discover that the former California cop accused of murder has so many opinions about cable pundits and anchors.

The 11-page manifesto from Christopher Dorner is filled with dark and disturbing thoughts, and his comments about television provide a macabre form of comic relief. What was equally troubling, at least to me, was an explosion of conservative comments on Twitter trying to tie his alleged rampage to ... liberals.

Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz

That's right, even with three people dead, one wounded and a manhunt under way, the ugly game of ideological finger-pointing was under way.

"This is very telling that you've got a direct association of liberal luminaries with this killer," Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, told Fox's Sean Hannity.

Actually, it's not telling at all. At least Bozell added that the luminaries should not be held responsible for Dorner's actions just because his screed invoked their names.

Watch: Should we care that Dorner likes liberal pundits?

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Dorner seems all over the map. He wants Hillary Clinton to be president, but calls Chris Christie his second choice and praises George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell.

Some of the television figures he hailed clearly lean left, others are hard-news anchors and reporters. One -- "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough -- is a former Republican congressman.

"Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Pat Harvey, Brian Williams, Soledad O'Brien, Wolf Blitzer, Meredith Viera, Tavis Smiley and Anderson Cooper, keep up the great work and follow Cronkite's lead," the manifesto says. And it offers advice: "Willie Geist, you're a talented and charismatic journalist. Stop with all the talk show shenanigans and get back to your core of reporting."

Watch: Did Chris Christie bully the doctor who dissed him on TV?

At CNN, Dorner loves Piers Morgan but wants Fareed Zakaria deported. He mailed Cooper a DVD related to his termination from the Los Angeles police force and a coin with three bullet holes. The idea that we should take the detritus of this diseased mind seriously is ludicrous.

$1 million reward for Dorner
Track the events leading up to manhunt
See video of Dorner during LAPD training

After I tweeted a link to a colleague's Daily Download story about the manifesto, I asked whether we should care what Dorner writes. Some on the right went haywire.

"Would you care if he loved Fox News, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh?" one Twitter user asked. "My guess is you would, hypocrite."

And: "Entire MSM would feed on this if it were linked to any right-wing cause."

Oh, and someone said I was "a sick, twisted freak and a liar" for saying that Scarborough, the former Republican congressman turned MSNBC host, is a conservative.

Watch: Should CBS have banned revealing outfits at the Grammys?

Some blatantly promoted the notion of payback: "You guys smeared Palin over Tucson. Now it's your turn to be linked to a murderous madman. Only this time the link's legit."

In other words, if Dorner admired some liberal media figures, they're somehow to blame for inspiring the murders.

Now it's true that some on the left tried to tar Palin when Jared Loughner opened fire in a Phoenix shopping center, killing six people and wounding Gabby Giffords. Palin's team had posted a map with crosshair targets representing Democratic lawmakers, including Giffords, that she was singling out for defeat in the 2010 midterms.

On the day of the shooting, I wrote on The Daily Beast: "This isn't about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it's about a lone nutjob who doesn't value human life." The use of the crosshairs imagery was dumb, I said, but there was no place for a "sickening ritual of guilt by association."

And the same goes for the case o fChristopher Dorner. The man is accused of killing a police officer and a couple in a parking lot. What possible difference does it make which journalists and politicians he likes or loathes?

The Giffords shooting sparked an important discussion about the need to tone down incendiary rhetoric, but that's a far cry from accusing people of complicity in crime.

Watch: Does Donald Trump have a $5 million case against Bill Maher?

There is also the question of whether the manifesto should have been published.

In 1995, I covered the controversy when The New York Times and The Washington Post, where I then worked, published another manifesto, this one a 35,000-word ramble by the mass murderer known as the Unabomber. His real name was Ted Kaczynski, and he threatened to keep on killing unless the papers acquiesced. The publication prompted Kaczynski's brother to tell the FBI of his suspicions.

In the wired age, there was no question that Dorner's words would instantly ricochet around the world. No newspaper publisher can act as a gatekeeper; the Web serves as a platform even for the poisonous words of alleged killers.

But that doesn't mean we should take those words and use them to rope in public figures who have the misfortune of being named. Killers are responsible for killing, no matter which television anchors they happen to like.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT