In the unending quest for provocative sound bites on the part of pundits, politicians and Fox News, South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham hit a home run this past week with his caustic comments following Hillary Clinton’s testimony regarding the Benghazi attack.  He told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that Mrs. Clinton “got away with murder.”   His remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from administration and Clinton supporters, while an unrepentant Graham held fast to his words.

Is Graham’s characterization of Mrs. Clinton’s acts as “murder” fair or appropriate?  If so, does it mean that we should more closely analyze the behavior of other politicians whose actions or inactions result in human loss?

For example, Mr. Graham’s home state, South Carolina, embraces tobacco, one of the most dangerous industries in the world, in terms of its capacity to cause death and other loss.  South Carolina has long been a top tobacco producer, and Mr. Graham has been staunch in his support of the industry.  For example, Senator Graham voted against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the law that sets up health requirements for tobacco products, imposes labeling guidelines, and requires tobacco companies to identify the contents of their products.  His state also has one of the lowest minimum excise taxes on cigarette sales, and it has no minimum markup for wholesalers or retailers, measures which are recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as effective in reducing demand and consumption of tobacco products.

The ravages of tobacco are vast, undeniable and appalling.  The Centers for Disease Control stated in a recent report that there are more deaths from tobacco each year than from all deaths due to drugs, alcohol, motor vehicle accidents, HIV, suicides and murders combined.  In addition, The National Cancer Institute reports that nearly 16% of high school students smoke cigarettes, and about 7.3% of high school students use smokeless tobacco. 

So, Mr. Graham, who is getting away with murder?

Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio.  She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.