Most Americans are still absorbing the shocking news of the Colorado movie-theater shooting that left 12 dead and 50 injured early Friday, but some people are already trying to politicize the tragedy. Armchair criminologists are dissecting everything from the possible political affiliation of the suspect, 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student James Holmes, to allegedly partisan messages some have gleaned from the film that was on the screen — The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Here, four ways the tragedy has been tied to politics:
1. The (incorrect) report suggesting the suspect might be a Tea Partier
Within hours of the shooting, ABC News' Brian Ross rushed to report that a man with the same name as the suspect, living in the same town, was listed as a member of the Colorado Tea Party. The implication was that "the shooter could just be a radical Tea Partier," says Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard. ABC promptly apologized, saying it was wrong and hadn't "properly vetted" the information. An apology isn't good enough, says Jim Newell at Wonkette, Ross should be canned. People are dead, and he's taking potshots based on, what, a few minutes of Googling? Tea Partiers online are furious "and they have every right to be, because it's an egregious, early error that will color the impressions of people no matter how frequently or aggressively it's retracted."
2. Rush Limbaugh made him do it
Judging by a barrage of overheated posts on Twitter, say the editors of Twitchy, a lot of Rush Limbaugh-haters think this is all his fault. Limbaugh suggested Tuesday on his talk-radio show that the name of the Dark Knight's villain, Bane, "is a thinly-veiled dig at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney," who's facing relentless attacks over his record at the similarly named private equity firm Bain Capital more than a decade ago. Rush was "either simply wrong or having a bit of fun at Obama's expense," says Dustin Siggins at Hot Air. Still, that doesn't justify this kind of unconscionable mudslinging, even if it is (so far) only from a bunch of nameless Twitter trolls. "This could easily lead to the kind of widespread slander and libel leveled against Sarah Palin after the Giffords shooting."
3. Blame it on the ongoing attack on Christian values
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tried to score a conservative twofer, says Jennifer Bendery at The Huffington Post. First, he suggested that a "senseless crazy act of terror like this" is somehow linked to the "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs" in modern America. People try to push God out of the public square, Gohmert says, but such shootings show how much we need his "protective hand." Then he put in a plug for concealed weapons. "It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?"
4. It's an occasion to show we can rise above politics
For President Obama and his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, the tragedy was "a chance to rise above the fray and unify the nation in the role as comforter-in-chief," say Reid J. Epstein and Darren Samuelsohn at Politico. Both candidates halted negative ads in Colorado. Romney cut short a campaign stop in New Hampshire, urging Americans to show the victims and grieving families "the good heart of America that we know and love." Obama canceled a rally scheduled for Friday in Florida, planning to return to the White House to monitor the situation in Colorado. "There are going to be other days for politics," Obama said. "This is a day for prayer and reflection."