Dems bridle as some in GOP blame shooting on the left

Published 7:47 am Friday, June 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — It didn’t take long for Washington’s post-shooting talk of unity to begin fraying.

As a top Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, lay in critical condition at a local hospital Thursday, some Republicans on the far right suggested that vitriolic rhetoric on the left could be to blame for the attack that put him there.

“How dare they say such a thing? How dare they?” retorted Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, pointing to a year of venomous attacks by Republicans including President Donald Trump.

Email newsletter signup

A day earlier, a man with a rifle and a handgun wounded Scalise and others at a baseball practice in a park in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. The attacker, who was shot by Scalise’s security detail and later died, was an Illinois man whose social media postings showed anger at Trump and the Republicans.

Trump and others in both parties called for unity — or at least a drastic cooling of rhetorical attacks. But barbed comments weren’t long in coming.

“The center of America is disappearing, and the violence is incited by the leading cultural voices of the Left,” GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa said over Twitter.

Republican Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania rose on the House floor to issue a call to “replace the hateful rhetoric and resistance with respect,” a comment seemingly aimed at an anti-Trump “Resist” movement.

“The comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous,” declared Pelosi, the Democratic leader from California.

Pelosi pointed out that she herself has faced verbal attacks and threats aplenty, including phone calls to her home she blamed on ads critical of her that are airing now in a Georgia House district where a hard-fought special election will take place next week. She accused Republicans of “sanctimony” for suggesting Democrats are the ones to blame.

Pelosi and other Democrats charged that Trump himself bears responsibility for the virulent state of political discourse — and some said for Wednesday’s attack as well, given his embrace of aggressive rhetoric on the campaign trail and the outbreaks of violence at some of his rallies.

“I think that the president contributed to this significantly,” said Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat. Clyburn charged that Trump “is allowed to hide behind political correctness to say all kinds of things about people, and I’m a little bit sick and tired of people saying anything they want to say about anyone they want to say it about.”

At least one Republican shared the view that Trump bore some responsibility for the shootings.

“I would argue that the president is at least — is partially — again, not in any way totally but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed,” said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford in an interview on MSNBC.