Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hannity, O'Reilly, Savage and others should address Knoxville church shooting with promise to tone down rhetoric or face legal action$$$

Right-wing talk radio has a lot to answer for in Sunday's deadly shooting of members of a Unitarian church here in Knoxville, TN.

Their angry rhetoric, locally and nationally, may attract listeners and big money and later readers, but it seems to feed hate into those who are already ignorant and sick. Not only does talk radio have a lot to answer for -- which includes Rush Limbaugh -- but so do authors like Ann Coulter who regularly damns people who believe differently than her.

It is my hope that members of talk radio and their "Bash-'Em-in-the-Head Book Club" of authors are targeted in a massive lawsuit by wounded victims and families of the dead in the shooting. Talk radio and extreme right wing conservative authors certainly can be cited for shouting "fire" in a crowded building, which does not come under the protection of the First Amendment. In considering Second Amendment rights, which I support, legal restrictions concerning gun licenses for the mentally ill have been unpheld.

The beating death of a 25-year-old Hispanic man by three white teens in Shenandoah, PA., earlier this month also can be connected to the right-wing hate speech. The teens have been charged with homicide.

I know that conservatives I've formed friendships with and respect across Tennessee do not solely rely on talk show hosts and authors to form their opinions. And there are left-wing pundits who spew an assortment of derogatory messages.

But this shooting case in particular may indeed point to a unique characteristic in the extreme right-wing message that puts a sense of mission into the minds of some to wipe out those who believe differently.

If and when we come across people on either ideologocial side who are taking matters too far in their thinking, then we must correct them and demand of them some sense of mitigation in their anger. That's our responsibility in the marketplace of ideas.

Read below about what the Knoxville News-Sentinel -- probably the best big newspaper in Tennessee -- reports today on the shooting:

Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list

4-page letter outlines frustration, hatred of 'liberal movement'

By Hayes Hickman

Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals "who are ruining the country," court records show.

Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children's musical.

Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson. who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.

Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

Adkisson told Still that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."

Adkisson told officers he left the house unlocked for them because "he expected to be killed during the assault."

Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday's mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of "the liberal movement," and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."

Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.

The letter, recovered from Adkisson's black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church's parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week.

"He fully expected to be killed by the responding police," the police chief said.

Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.

"It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance," the chief said. The church has a "gays welcome" sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.

Owen said Adkisson's stated hatred of the liberal movement was not necessarily connected to any hostility toward Christianity or religion per say, but rather the political advocacy of the church.

The church's Web site states that it has worked for "desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women's rights and gay rights" since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.

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