Premature exoneration

CBS4's Jon Keller seems to think that--since the Secret Service can't confirm that anyone suggested killing Barack Obama during a Sarah Palin rally in Scranton--all claims of disturbing anti-Obama invective are baseless.

Over at Media Nation, however, Dan Kennedy notes that it's not that simple:

The first report that Palin's crowds were getting out of control appeared in the Washington Post in early October, when Dana Milbank covered a Florida event at which "Kill him!" was clearly heard. According to Milbank, though, those words were apparently aimed at former Weather Underground radical William Ayers, not Obama. Which I guess makes it OK.

But wait. On Oct. 8, MSNBC reported that someone shouted "Off with his head!" at a Pennsylvania event when McCain mentioned Obama's tax plan. That sounds like a death threat aimed at Obama, does it not? I don't think Ayers has a tax plan.

Finally, the aforementioned Milbank says the Secret Service is now stopping reporters from interviewing people at McCain-Palin rallies — a censorious action that is most definitely not part of the agency's mission statement, and that makes you wonder about the veracity of its claims about Singleton's reporting. Milbank puts it this way:

So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it's unfounded because the reporters can't get close enough to identify the person.
I can understand why the Secret Service would do that. More media coverage means more reports of death threats; more death threats mean more nuts reach for their guns. But I also don't doubt that the agency would rather keep Obama safe than be completely forthcoming with the truth.

Here's the scorecard, as best as I can tell:

  • "Kill him!" at Florida rally. True, though probably aimed at Ayers rather than Obama. Still, a death threat is a death threat.
  • "Off with his head!" True, and almost certainly aimed at Obama.
  • "Kill him!" at Pennsylvania rally. Probably true, despite the Secret Service's inability to find the criminal. Definitely aimed at Obama.

Also, while it's not exactly a death threat, let's not forget this outburst:


I like Keller and respect his work. But to dismiss concern over this stuff as "Misplaced Hysteria" is too glib.

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