Right focuses on Dupnik

RIGHT FOCUSES ON DUPNIK…. On Saturday night in Tucson, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik lamented societal factors — most notably, the toxicity of our political discourse — that he fears may have contributed to the day’s violence.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” the sheriff said. “And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Dupnik added that he believes “unbalanced” people are “susceptible to vitriol.”

It appears many conservatives believed the sheriff was referring to them, and began responding in kind.

Dupnik immediately angered some on the right, who took his words to be directed at the tea party and conservatives, as well as Arizonans who took offense to his depiction of Arizona as “a mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said he didn’t think the sheriff’s words “had any part in a law enforcement briefing.” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said he was “disappointed” in the sheriff. Conservative talk show host Neal Boortz said Dupnik was looking for political gain, and Fox News anchor — in an interview with the sheriff — wondered aloud why he would “inject political speculation” into the story.

And that’s really just the start. Dupnik has also drawn fire from Malkin, Red State, one of the Breitbart outlets, and National Review, among others.

It’s not entirely surprising the right wouldn’t care for the sheriff’s concerns, but (a) they hardly seemed excessive, under the circumstances and they weren’t partisan in the slightest; and (b) if conservatives are really concerned about intemperate rhetoric from Arizona sheriffs, Dupnik is hardly Exhibit A.

As John Cole noted, “Oddly enough, I’ve never seen wingnuts react this way to any of Joe Arpaio’s briefings.”

What’s more, as Media Matters noted, conservative outlets have “repeatedly praised a different Arizona sheriff, Paul Babeu, who regularly engages in vitriolic attacks against President Obama and Democrats.”

For what it’s worth, Dupnik doesn’t appear fazed by the criticism. He told ABC’s Diane Sawyer last night, “The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information. [Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.