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STEVE SEBELIUS: Not everything is political

Updated October 18, 2022 - 10:12 am

Not everything is political.

That may seem counterintuitive for a political writer to say, but it’s nonetheless true: Not every event, issue or circumstance can be reduced to the political.

I was reminded of that recently during the outpouring of grief and sympathy that followed the murder of my friend and Review-Journal colleague Jeff German.

Most people — from Gov. Steve Sisolak to members of Congress to colleagues in the media to longtime friends — wrote to express their condolences and their outrage about this senseless crime. I, and the rest of the Review-Journal newsroom, deeply appreciated those sentiments.

But a tiny minority had a different take, one that staggeringly missed the point, diminished what happened to Jeff and cheapened his legacy.

“The arrest of a Democratic public official in Las Vegas for allegedly murdering a journalist shocked the nation, but news networks went out of their way to bury his party affiliation,” read a story posted on the Fox News website. “While the liberal networks covered German’s horrific murder, they strangely omitted to tell viewers that (murder suspect and Clark County Public Administrator Robert) Telles is a Democrat during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s coverage.”

Those networks also failed to report Telles’ Zodiac sign and favorite color, too, since they have as much to do with the crime as his party registration. (For the record, the Review-Journal reported his political affiliation in a story the day after Telles was arrested in connection with the murder.)

Fox commentator Tucker Carlson interviewed Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt on Sept. 9 after announcing the arrest of a “Democratic Party politician.” He also correctly noted that police said German was targeted because of his reporting on Telles’ alleged misconduct in office.

Laxalt started out fine: “This kind of senseless violence against a journalist is absolutely not the America that we can ever accept,” he said.

He could have, and should have, stopped there. But no.

“It’s the left’s foot soldiers that burn down America,” Laxalt said. “It’s the left’s foot soldiers that attacked a couple thousand cops, including shooting an officer in Las Vegas just two years ago. These are the people that keep inciting violence in our country, and yet they want to completely change the subject from their rhetoric, from their policies that are making our cities and our communities less safe.”

Talk about changing the subject: German’s murder had nothing whatsoever to do with riots or protests, and the person who shot Metropolitan Police Officer Shay Mikalonis was not participating in a protest at all. To conflate any of those things with what happened to German is ignorant and exploitive.

The Fox News talking point leached onto Twitter, and into emails, too, as people accused the media of covering up a Democratic crime.

Telles is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. But if he committed the crime — and District Attorney Steve Wolfson says the evidence is compelling — he didn’t do so out of any political motive, or to protest racial injustice. If he did it, it was because German had reported true facts about his behavior in office. There’s absolutely nothing political about it.

Laxalt, and others, also took issue with a question posed at a Metro news conference with Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is running for governor and has received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Would Lombardo denounce Trump’s rhetoric that seemingly condones violence against the media?

While Trump’s anti-media rhetoric is well-documented, there’s no evidence it played a role in German’s killing. This should have been an easy question for Lombardo to answer: “I’ve been a cop for 30 years, and I’ve arrested people for committing violence. Anyone — anyone — who calls for or condones violence against anyone else is wrong, period. Next question.”

Instead, Lombardo said “I think this is probably an inappropriate venue to speculate or opine on that.” Not wrong, necessarily, but also not the best answer.

There are violent incidents motivated by politics. The January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Riots that broke out during protests of police killings of Black Americans.

But Jeff German’s murder had nothing whatsoever to do with politics, and anyone who insists that it does reveals their own partisanship and lack of perception. It may be the perfect illustration of the saying, “when the finger points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

Let’s all endeavor not to be idiots.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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