McSally’s Recent Cable News Tour Calling For Civility Misses the Mark
Typically when someone speaks about a desire for change, and expresses a shared responsibility for an issue, their next statement, as an act of good faith, speaks about their own missteps. Not so with Martha McSally. Since the terrible and tragic attack on her GOP colleagues on June 14th that left the shooter dead and 3 others seriously injured, she has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and in various print articles speaking about how we need to take stock in the current political climate. In her interview on 6/14 with Joe Ferguson she states “we are all responsible for bringing the temperature down” and on Fox News on 6/17 she muses “what is it that each of us can do to bring the temperature down?” Had she answered her own questions she could have followed up her statements with an admission of her culpability like “I too have engaged in some of the political conversation that inhibits our unification.” But instead she states, “I refuse to inflame the rhetoric. I haven’t done it since I’ve been in D.C. and I’m going to continue to choose not to do it.” “Let’s not feed into the fear and anger.” So since Martha won’t use this opportunity for self-reflection, I am compelled to do so for her.
One of the examples she could have used came from a meeting with our group, McSally Take a Stand, in early February. After she received some bad press for avoiding her constituents, Her District Director called to invite our group to meet with her following our delivery of thousands of signatures demanding an open public forum to discuss issues of concern to her constituents. In this meeting with us and leaders from Indivisible Southern Arizona and Stronger Together Cochise County she told us that she is not afraid of anything. “I’m a trained killer.” And then, “I have a certain set of skills. Just a reminder to everybody.” And while some of the women present laughed nervously, I wrote in my notes “I think she just threatened us.”
She could also cite the example of when she and her staff refused to acknowledge and call out racist and inflammatory remarks from her colleagues, and then ridiculed those of us who asked her to lead the call to more civil discourse. In a recent speech given to a bankers’ lobbying group, she used a mocking tone when describing the people who are asking her to speak out and complained that they want her to be a pundit for every tweet made by her colleagues. Her own District Director, in a meeting with our new group, Represent Me AZ, argued for 15 minutes contending she has zero responsibility to call out Steve King for a blatantly racist remark he made about immigrant babies. While we don’t feel she is responsible for the barrage of divisive remarks and tweets from her colleagues, her recent civility media tour as the torch bearer for civility is disingenuous if she is not willing to disavow publicly such statements when they occur.
However, the most damaging remarks she has made are beyond hypocritical; they are irresponsible and dangerous. She was interviewed by CNN just a day after the tragic firearm attack. In that interview, McSally references a peaceful demonstration outside her office at which demonstrators used gravestones to depict the very real potential results of the healthcare bill she voted for, and in her words, helped craft. McSally says “If someone is listening to that, if people really think ‘Martha McSally’s trying to kill my loved ones, I’ve got to stop her’ then someone potentially unstable could be incited by that.”
Every demonstration I have led or attended has been peaceful, respectful and well within our rights as granted by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. McSally is a mere soldier in the GOP campaign to discredit protesters by attacking the fundamental “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star points out that many of the calls for civility following the shooting in Virginia are motivated to silence the opposition. But more disturbing is that McSally’s words do the very thing she is trying to attach to us; create an environment with ideas that may inflame the unstable few to act with violence towards protesters. Many of us who are working to appeal to our representatives receive threats regularly. People yell obscene and threatening things at us when we demonstrate. But if someone thought I wanted to hurt our Congresswoman, what might someone be willing to do to protect her from me and the retired teachers, veterans, healthcare workers, scientists, mothers, fathers, and grandmothers who regularly assemble outside her office?
So if the true purpose of Martha’s Media Civility Tour was NOT to bring the temperature down across the full spectrum of political debate, then she is using a terrible tragedy in Virginia and our tragedy in Tucson 6 years ago to suppress her opposition. Or perhaps she wants to justify her complete lack of open, public engagement. Either way, I again call on her as I did in November to be a leader of the community she serves and work to bring us together by toning down the divisive and potentially violent rhetoric.