01/11/2011 06:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sanders Office Defends Reference To Giffords Shooting In Fundraising Newsletter

WASHINGTON -- A spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is defending the Senator's decision to reference the shootings in Arizona as part of a newsletter and fundraising appeal he sent to constituents on Tuesday.

The Vermont Independent took some heat on Tuesday for including his reflections on the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the context of raising money to fight Republicans and other "right-wing reactionaries."

In an email to the Huffington Post, Michael Briggs, a spokesman for the Senator, cautioned that the citation of the Tucson shootings was just one part of a five-page document. He also noted that the newsletter Sanders sends out traditionally deals with current events and, hence, it would have been "absurd" not to touch on the Giffords' affair.

This was an e-mail letter that the senator's campaign sends out, and will continue to send out, to supporters in Vermont and around the country on a regular basis. This quite long newsletter gives the senator's views on the major issues facing our country. Most of the space in this newsletter dealt with the senator's views on the economic implications of what will be happening in the new Congress. Given the enormity of the tragedy in Arizona, however, it would have been absurd not to comment on what happened there.

The main point that the senator made about Arizona is that given the fact that Rep. Giffords' office was attacked last year after her vote for health care reform, that a protester had previously brought a gun to an event she held, that Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva had to close his district office when someone shot a bullet through his window, that former Rep. Harry Mitchell had to suspend a town meeting in his district because of threatening phone calls and that Judge John Roll had received numerous threatening calls and death threats, one should not have been completely surprised by the tragedy of last Saturday. There is clearly a pervasive climate of fear and violence in Arizona and the senator very much hopes that the state's leading public officials will do what they can to create more civility so that people there can express their political views without fear.

As he always does, the senator devoted one sentence in a four-page newsletter to thanking his supporters and another sentence indicating that their support in the future would be appreciated.

The last part of Briggs' email is true. Only one sentence in the entire document solicits financial support from recipients. But the timing and context of the solicitation is, nevertheless, provocative -- not indefensible, but certainly fodder for conservatives who are already convinced that Democrats are trying to reap political advantage from the catastrophe.

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