Rhetoric Intensifies After Giffords Shooting

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains in a Tucson, Ariz., hospital after being shot in the head at an event on Saturday. As she appears to be stabilizing, the political rhetoric in Tucson and the rest of Arizona is resuming.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A brief pause for reflection today as the country joined President Obama, lawmakers and investigators in a moment of silence. It was meant to honor those killed and wounded in Tucson on Saturday. But when the bowed heads were lifted, the investigation, the grief, the vigils and a heated political debate resumed.

SIEGEL: The alleged gunman, 22-year-old Jared Loughner is in court for the first time today. He's being arraigned in Phoenix. In Tucson, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition. Dr. Michael Lemole says he's watching closely to make sure Giffords' brain doesn't swell, which could cause more problems.

Dr. MICHAEL LEMOLE (Neurosurgeon, University of Arizona Medical Center): We're not out of the woods yet. That swelling can sometimes take three days or five days to maximize. But every day that goes by and we don't see an increase, we're slightly more optimistic.

NORRIS: As Giffords remains in the hospital, a political discussion about the attack is intensifying. And as NPR's Jeff Brady reports, talk radio is at the forefront.

JEFF BRADY: Representative Gabrielle Giffords' condition was only a minor topic on talk radio this morning. The big issue was comments made over the weekend by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who said Arizona had become a Mecca for hatred and bigotry. Dupnik also was critical of conservative talk radio for creating a heated political climate that may have contributed to the tragic shooting.

On his national radio program, Rush Limbaugh was his defiant self, speaking directly to other talk show hosts.

(Soundbite of radio show, "The Rush Limbaugh Show")

Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH (Radio Talk Show Host): Hold your heads high and turn this back on the media and the Democrats who are co-conspirators in policies that are bankrupting this country and risking the future for our children and grandchildren.

BRADY: Limbaugh said Democrats were trying to use the Arizona shooting for political advantage. That was a message heard over and over on Tucson's station KNST's morning show, too.

(Soundbite of radio show, "The Morning Ritual")

Unidentified Man: The Morning Ritual with Garret Lewis.

BRADY: Host Garret Lewis took call after call critical of Sheriff Dupnik's comments. Here is someone identified as Dominic(ph).

(Soundbite of radio show, "The Morning Ritual")

DOMINIC: This is as dumb as saying, oh, you played a video game, the video game made him do this. No, he did this.

Mr. GARRET LEWIS (Radio Talk Show Host): You're right. And - allegedly, of course. And that's what you and I, Dominic, are so upset and so are many other people that are listening, that our sheriff would actually throw out that other thing and lay blame on everyone but this alleged shooter.

BRADY: Well, talk radio was furious with Sheriff Dupnik. It was pretty easy to find people on the streets of Tucson who agree with him.

Ms. BEVERLY BROWN: I watched the last election and I saw the billboards and Gabrielle Giffords had some really rotten things said about her.

BRADY: Beverly Brown voted for Giffords in the November election.

Ms. BROWN: I think you have to be careful what you say. I think everybody has to be responsible for what they say. I think you have to think of what you're saying when you say it, who you're saying it to.

BRADY: At this point there is probably only one person who really knows if the heated political climate in Arizona contributed to Saturday's shooting, Jared Loughner himself. He's in federal custody, but he reportedly is not helping investigators with their work.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Tucson.

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