Monday, January 10, 2011
Giffords shooting: the sheriff who turned the focus on rightwing rhetoric
Clarence Dupnik, the Pima county sheriff, claimed 'vitriolic' US political debate had contributed to the tragedy
By Jon Henley/The Guardian
Few outside his home state will have heard of Clarence W Dupnik before this weekend, but if world reaction to the Arizona shootings has focused on inflammatory rightwing rhetoric, it is largely down to the Pima county sheriff's pronouncements.
A local law enforcement officer for more than 50 years, Dupnik turns 76 tomorrow and, it seems, no longer feels a need to mince his words. On Saturday he condemned "the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country". The next day he called Arizona the "tombstone of the United States" because of its lax gun laws, and berated those who "try to inflame the public 24 hours a day" with "rhetoric about hatred, mistrust, paranoia of how government operates". On Fox News and ABC today he again claimed "vitriolic rhetoric" had contributed to the tragedy.
For some on the left, the generally genial sheriff is the hero of the hour, daring to say what many believe. For others, on the right, he is the villain of the piece, trying to exploit a mass murder for political gain.
Dupnik says he was "very angry at the time I said those things, and I'm still angry". The fact that the congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still critical in hospital, and judge John Roll, who died, were friends undoubtedly fuelled his anger, but nothing in the veteran lawman's recent past suggests he is likely to apologise.