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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?

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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.

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

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