Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, is skeptical about any hard connection between Loughner and American Renaissance.
"The fans of American Renaissance tend to be older and they tend to be intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals," says Mr. Pitcavage. "Based on the limited nature of [Loughner's] internet footprint suggesting his thoughts and beliefs, there's nothing to lead one to think he would lean that way. It's perplexing to us that there is a notion of a substantial connection."
In Arizona, particularly, immigration issues, including the passage of a tough anti-immigration law last year, overlapped with parts of the broader tea party agenda. Giffords narrowly defeated a tea party candidate in November's election. She supported the federal health-care reform law and spoke out against Arizona's tough anti-immigration law, both counter to her tea party opponent. American Renaissance's website carries what appears to be a paid tea party advertisement featuring the "Don't Tread on Me" flag that's become synonymous with many of the movement's protests.
After the shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat in a largely Republican state, condemned "the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government." But the potential link to American Renaissance frames the shooting in a different, and possibly more complex, light.