Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Blaming media in California gun rampage is nuts

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
February 11, 2013 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
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
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2153 GMT (0553 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Newt Gingrich warns that President Obama's border plan spends too much and doesn't do what is needed
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
Errol Lewis says if it really wants to woo black voters away from the Democrats, the GOP better get behind its black candidates
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Martin Luther King Jr. fought and died so blacks would no longer be viewed as inferior but rather enjoy the same inherent rights given to whites in America.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Alex Castellanos says recent low approval ratings spell further trouble for the President
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0349 GMT (1149 HKT)
Paul Begala says Boehner's plan to sue Obama may be a stunt for the tea party, or he may be hoping the Supreme Court's right wing will advance the GOP agenda that he could not
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The rapture is a bizarre teaching in fundamentalist circles, made up by a 19th-century theologian, says Jay Parini. It may have no biblical validity, but is a really entertaining plot device in new HBO series
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette: President Obama needs to send U.S. marshals to protect relocating immigrant kids.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says charging the dad in the hot car death case with felony murder, predicated on child neglect, was a smart strategic move.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Van Jones says our nation is sitting on a goldmine of untapped talent. The tech companies need jobs, young Latinos and blacks need jobs -- so how about a training pipeline?
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
A drug that holds hope in the battle against hepatitis C costs $1,000 per pill. We can't solve a public health crisis when drug makers charge such exorbitant prices, Karen Ignagni says.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1133 GMT (1933 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says our political environment is filled with investigations or accusations of another scandal; all have their roots in the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1814 GMT (0214 HKT)
Sally Kohn says Boehner's lawsuit threat is nonsense that wastes taxpayer money, distracts from GOP's failure to pass laws to help Americans
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Speaker John Boehner says President Obama has circumvented Congress with his executive actions and plans on filing suit against the President this month
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)
Hands down, it's 'Hard Day's Night,' says Gene Seymour-- the exhilarating, anarchic and really fun big screen debut for the Beatles. It's 50 years old this weekend
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2201 GMT (0601 HKT)
Belinda Davis says World War I plunged millions of women across the globe into "men's jobs," even as they kept home and hearth. The legacy continues into today.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1824 GMT (0224 HKT)
Pablo Alvarado says all the children trying to cross the U.S. border shows immigration is a humanitarian crisis that can't be solved with soldiers and handcuffs.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Elizabeth Mitchell says Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi dreamt up the symbolic colossus not for money, but to embody a concept--an artwork to amaze for its own sake. Would anyone do that today?
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says Jamaica sold two protected islands to China for a huge seaport, which could kill off a rare iguana and hurt ecotourism.
ADVERTISEMENT