A plot to kill Sen. Blumenthal is not funny

I can't help myself sometimes from gorging on cable news and talk radio. I am generally a bipartisan listener, tuning in to the left and right. I watch both Fox and MSNBC.

And just like the times I eat too much, I often feel guilty afterward about overindulging. Still, often it is hard to look away.

I was struck most recently about the polarizing story of the incredible alleged staging of a fake hate crime by "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

This was a puzzler for me because it generated so much outrage and discussion on the right-wing bandwidth.

The essential narrative there was that the biased mainstream media gullibly bought in to the story in the first place for its ripe anti-Trump elements, that a black gay guy was attacked by people wearing Trump MAGA hats. Then, goes this complaint, the biased mainstream media downplayed the subsequent unraveling of the story, in which Smollett turned from victim to perpetrator, arrested for staging the fake assault. There were, according to the new version from police, no bad white guys in MAGA hats.

This was all dissected endlessly and breathlessly by conservative radio hosts, ranting how the mainstream media was practically complicit in the scheme.

It seemed to me, on the other hand, the story got the attention and coverage you would expect when a major American metropolitan police department says a celebrity was the victim of a hate crime.  And it stayed right on top of news budgets as Smollett was arrested and disgraced and his appearances pulled from "Empire."

What didn't seem to get a lot of talk time on right-wing radio this past week was the story of the avowed white nationalist, a Coast Guard lieutenant, who was arrested as a "domestic terrorist" with an alleged stockpile of weapons and hit list that included a variety of prominent liberal Democrats and media figures.

The talk on the right, with an emphasis on Smollett and the glossing over of an alleged assassination plot by a military officer, seemed to flow, as it often does, from the Trump White House.

"What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments," Trump tweeted about Smollett. Not a peep from the president about the arrest of a person prosecutors called "a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life." What Smollett is accused of is very wrong but, let's be honest, he wasn't arming himself to go on a killing rampage, targeting prominent political and media figures.

Here on eastern Connecticut talk radio, I wasn't surprised to hear conservative Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons join the chorus of complaints that the media downplayed the Smollett story, after it turned against the black gay actor. Whatever.

But I was startled when the first selectman of the town I live in brought up the story of the arrest of the Coast Guard lieutenant — who actually once attended a short program here at the Coast Guard Academy — mentioning that our own Sen. Richard Blumenthal was on the man's hit list.

Blumenthal, Simmons suggested, had better arm himself. After all, the first selectman said, it would be too late to protect himself by just calling 911. I think this was supposed to be funny.

There was no outrage and broad condemnation for an officer accused of domestic terrorism and targeting Democrats with violence. Instead, this Republican, who once ran for the Senate seat Blumenthal won, had a warning that the senator arm himself. Yikes.

What made this more unsettling was that Simmons, moments before, had been joking about an old SUV he had traded in. The truck had running boards, he said. These were perfectly suited, he explained, in the strangest of segues, to having gunmen ride along with you.

These gun-toting riders, he explained, could stand on the running boards, hang on to the posts between the lowered front and rear windows and still be able to shoot. The ammunition could be stored in the roomy back seat.

The discussion of the Simmons gun ship went on for a little while, with lots of snickers and guffaws and talk about how the rig could be best outfitted for violence. The former congressman said it is probably down in Mexico. You know, that's where all the violence is.

The humor totally eluded me, and it all seemed especially inappropriate when the conversation turned to the arrest of a domestic terrorist targeting liberals and stockpiling weapons, with a warning that Democratic Sen. Blumenthal better arm himself.

I turned it off.

Once again, having gorged myself, I felt a little queasy.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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