He’s been dragged, unwillingly, into the Arizona shooting controversy; the member of Congress he sought to defeat, California Democrat Bob Filner, has explicitly suggested that Tea Party rhetoric influenced the Tucson shooter, despite the lack of evidence: “I will tell you that in a society we are not isolated, none of us is isolated. Yes, that guy may have acted alone but he’s influenced, he’s empowered, he’s legitimized by those who are talking in this way.” Furthermore, Filner claimed that his life was threatened by Popaditch supporters.
There are videos of the incident in question. The one below depicts a rowdy crowd surrounding both candidates. From what we can see, there’s some bumping and light shoving, a lot of chanting of “Pop-a-ditch,” and someone calls Filner a “scumbag” and some fellow repeatedly yells, “Don’t tread on me, Bob!” It’s not a pretty scene, but Filner has supporters around him throughout the incident (again, as far as we can see), and moments after emerging from the crowd, the person with the camera asks Filner if he’s all right and he shrugs it off with a wave. An aide or supporter says, “No, he’s not all right, did you see that?” but Filner offers a reassuring pat to the supporter and smiles.
In this second video, you can see a big crowd of Popaditch supporters following Filner and his much smaller group of supporters into the building at the 3:11 point. Again, a lot of yelling, and clearly the crowd isn’t friendly, but no discernible physical confrontation beyond the bumping of respective candidates’ signs.
There’s no doubt that walking through a crowd of voters who yell that you’re scum is a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Perhaps Filner genuinely felt physically threatened. But we hear no threats on the tape. No one was arrested, and no charges were filed against anyone. What Filner experienced is probably on par with most visiting sports teams’ experiences in cities with tough crowds.
Perhaps the crowd that night let their passions run away with them. But it’s rather obnoxious for Filner to claim the mantle of victim and to compare his troubles to those of Gabrielle Giffords:
“I cannot help but believe that the violent context of the recent election is responsible for this tragedy,” said Filner, D-Chula Vista, in a statement. “Many of us were physically threatened by those who believed . . . we were ‘enemies,’ rather than sincere people with different opinions. Their incendiary talk — given legitimacy by equally incendiary talk shows — make violence an acceptable political tactic.”
In a telephone interview from Washington, Filner said in last year’s election he and Giffords had the “same types of opponents, Tea Party-types.” On election night, he said, a group of people “threatened me with assassination.”
The campaign is over, Congressman. Nick Popaditch tells me he doesn’t know if he’ll run for office again. Whether or not Filner ever really needed to go negative on Popaditch, there’s really no need to demonize the opposition three months after the votes are cast.
Finally, I wonder how Bob Filner feels about Obama’s statement last night, “If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not – but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”
UPDATE: A San Diego blogger writes in to contend Filner had a particular figure in mind when discussing the threat.
Except that in other media accounts, “Filner also told The San Diego Union-Tribune that a group of people threatened him with assassination on election night in November.”