DOHA, Qatar — The attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was apparently motivated by her assailant's political views, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday, calling the lawmaker's shooting "a form of extremism."
Clinton said she believed the man accused of gravely wounding Giffords, Jared Lee Loughner, crossed the line from expressing an opinion to violent action, which she called a "hallmark" of extremist behavior. She said it didn't matter whether Loughner was a liberal, conservative or an al-Qaida operative.
The suspect evidently suffered from severe psychological problems and was not politically active but has a deep mistrust of government. According to his cryptic Web postings, Loughner feared he was the target of government surveillance and considered police authority unconstitutional.
The shooting of Giffords and killing of six people Saturday has inspired a heated debate over whether the shooter was motivated by politics or simply deranged. Some have blamed the shootings on the use of violent rhetoric that sometimes marks political debates.
Clinton made her comments in an interview with CNN in the Omani capital of Muscat. She was asked whether she and others rushed to judgment when they labeled the shooter an extremist.
"Based on what I know, this is a criminal defendant who was in some ways motivated by his own political views, who had a particular animus toward the congresswoman," she said.
"And I think when you cross the line from expressing opinions that are of conflicting differences in our political environment into taking action that's violent action, that's a hallmark of extremism, whether it comes from the right, the left, from al-Qaida, from anarchists, whoever it is," she said. "That is a form of extremism."
In remarks on the shooting in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, Clinton said the incident was proof there were extremists in the U.S.
"I think that when you're a criminal who is in some way pursuing criminal activity connected to — however bizarre and poorly thought through — your political views, that's a form of extremism," she said on Wednesday.