Tea Party Group Blames 'Leftist' for Giffords Shooting

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Showing no sign of tamping down on divisive political rhetoric in the wake of the shooting of 20 people that left six dead in Tuscon Saturday, the Tea Party Nation group e-mailed its members Sunday warning them they would be called upon to fight leftists in the days ahead and defend their movement.

TPN founder Judson Phillips, in an article linked off the e-mail "The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and the left's attack on the Tea Party movement," described the shooter as "a leftist lunatic" and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik as a "leftist sheriff" who "was one of the first to start in on the liberal attack." Phillips urged tea party supporters to blame liberals for the attack on centrist Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot through the head and is now fighting for her life, as a means of defending the tea party movement's recent electoral gains.

"The hard left is going to try and silence the Tea Party movement by blaming us for this," he wrote. Clinton used the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to "blame conservative talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh" and "The tactic worked then, backing conservatives off and possibly helping to ensure a second Clinton term."

"The left is coming and will hit us hard on this. We need to push back harder with the simple truth. The shooter was a liberal lunatic. Emphasis on both words," he wrote.

The Tea Party Nation is the sponsor of the Tea Party Convention at which former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker in February 2010. "America is ready for another revolution!" Palin told the assembled at the conference, to standing ovations.

Other tea party groups took a less combative tone. Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said Saturday her group was "shocked and saddened" by the "terrible tragedy."

"These heinous crimes have no place in America, and they are especially grievous when committed against our elected officials. Spirited debate is desirable in our country, but it only should be the clash of ideas," Kremer said in a statement published by the New York Times. "An attack on anyone for political purposes, if that was a factor in this shooting, is an attack on the democratic process. We join with everyone in vociferously condemning it."

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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