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Michael Seitzman

Michael Seitzman

Posted: May 26, 2008 01:06 PM

Is the Secret Service Investigating Liz Trotta and Fox News?


FOX News political pundit Liz Trotta jokingly suggested this weekend that someone should assassinate an American presidential candidate. She had first "mistakenly" referred to Obama as "Osama" while discussing theories that Hillary Clinton's recent comments about the RFK assassination was in fact a suggestion that someone "knock off Osama." When she was corrected and reminded that she meant "Obama," she then said, "Well, both if we could."

The United States Secret Service is charged with the protection of Senator Obama and famously takes all threats seriously, so it's important to ask the question whether they will be investigating Liz Trotta's comment, FOX News' response to that comment, and any collateral threats that may have been generated by the comment.

Assassins throughout our history have repeatedly claimed to find their motivations in the media. John Hinckley claimed his attempted assassination of Reagan was because of his obsession with Jodie Foster, Mark David Chapman cited The Catcher in the Rye and the film Ordinary People as inspirations for his assassination of John Lennon, and Charles Manson claims his murders were a result of his twisted interpretation of The Beatles' "Helter Skelter."

While these so-called motivations are inexplicable to a healthy mind, it is foolish and naive not to accept as a terrifying fact that psychotics can and will be triggered by almost anything, which is why it's not only vulgar but completely reckless, irresponsible and bordering on criminal for those who comment on politics and political figures to say the kind of disgusting thing that Liz Trotta said. It's also, not incidentally, why the world pounced so quickly and decisively on Hillary Clinton's comments about the RFK assassination.

This from the Secret Service website: "The Secret Service is interested in legitimate information relating to threats, plans or attempts by individuals, groups or organizations to harm Secret Service protectees. However, the agency does not desire or solicit information pertaining to individuals or groups expressing legitimate criticism of, or political opposition to, the policies and decisions of the government or government officials."

The questions the Secret Service should be asking are: Were Liz Trotta and FOX News criminally negligent in using the public airwaves to suggest the assassination of a presidential candidate; Is the suggestion of political assassination an example of legitimate criticism; and, If the First Amendment doesn't allow one to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater or "Bomb!" on an airplane, how could it allow a public "joke" about assassinating a political candidate?

And what is the question the rest of us should be asking? How about, what kind of world are we creating for ourselves and our children where we allow our political divisions to become so deep that the suggestion or even the joke about a political assassination is in any way acceptable?