Second Man Ruled Out As Possible Accomplice in Giffords Shooting; Liberals Blame Conservative ‘Vitriol’

By Susan Jones | January 9, 2011 | 7:24 AM EST

House Speaker John Boehner at the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on Capitol Hill on Jan. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Updates the report posted on Sunday.)

( - The 22-year-old “unbalanced” man suspected of shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, acted alone after all, authorities said.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday said it was looking for a second, older man who may have had some connection to Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused of opening fire on 20 people in Tucson, killing six of them and wounding 14 others, including Rep. Giffords, who was shot in the head.

The sheriff’s office now says the second man was a cab driver who brought the suspect to the Safeway store.

As of early Monday morning, the congresswoman remained in critical condition with a bullet wound to the brain. Doctors said the bullet penetrated only the left hemisphere of her brain, and they said she has been able to respond to simple commands. Doctors are cautiously optimistic that the congresswoman will recover, although it's not clear how much of her brain function may be impaired.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called Loughner, the accused gunman, “unbalanced,” but in the same breath Dupnik mentioned anti-government sentiment: “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. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the Capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Although people of all political persuasions have expressed shock and sorrow at Saturday’s mass shooting in Arizona, some on the left were quick to blame the usual conservative lightning rods – including Fox News.

"There's an aura of hate and elected politicians feed it, certain people on Fox News feed it," Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson told a New Jersey newspaper, The Record.

Rep. Giffords’ father, asked if Gabrielle had any enemies, was quoted as saying, “the whole tea party” was his daughter's enemy.

Some liberal blogs blamed Sarah Palin, who was criticized last March for placing gunsight “crosshairs” on a map of the United States to identify 20 House Democrats who voted for the Democrats' health care bill and who should be targeted for defeat in the midterm elections.

A newspaper, the Cleveland Leader, opined on Saturday that Palin’s political career “may be in peril” over the gunsight target map: “It is probably never a good idea to use imagery of a gunsight target map against people who have differing viewpoints,” the newspaper said on its Web site. “Now that someone has acted out in violence towards Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, it is safe to assume that it derailed any chance at Sarah Palin winning an election for the White House.”

Palin has expressed her “sincere condolences” to Giffords and her family.

The names Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck also surfaced in liberal blogs as “hate-mongers” who stoke violence.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman mentioned the conservative talk show hosts by name in a Saturday blog post:

“You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead,” Krugman wrote shortly after news of the Arizona shooting broke: “But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.”

An Associated Press account of the mass shooting included details about the alleged gunman’s unstable mental condition. But according to the AP, the shooting “also left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.”