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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT