The pivot from police incident to politics happened rapidly
President Donald Trump made no mention of politics in a brief statement
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe mentioned that "there are too many guns on the streets," a common theme for gun control advocates in the wake of attacks like these
The shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and four others at a baseball practice for Republican members of Congress on Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, was always going to quickly turn to politics.
Rep. Chris Collins, one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent congressional supporters, insisted that the shooting was directly tied to anti-Trump rhetoric from the left. “I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Collins said on a local radio station in upstate New York. “The rhetoric has been outrageous – the finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters. Really, then, you know, some people react to things like that. They get angry as well. And then you fuel the fires.”
Collins also said in the same interview he would have his gun “in my pocket from this day forward.”
That pivot from police incident to politics happened rapidly around 11:15 a.m., when CNN confirmed that the alleged shooter was James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois. A quick scan of his social media presence – Facebook and Twitter – suggested that he was strongly opposed to Trump and was a supporter of the 2016 presidential candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who ran as a Democrat.
Hodgkinson also apparently volunteered for Sanders campaign in Iowa during the 2016 campaign. Sanders condemned the shooting in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign,” Sanders said in a statement. “I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
Hodgkinson’s apparent Facebook profile page is an image of Sanders as “Uncle Sam,” and one recent post from June 12 carries this message from Hodgkinson: “I want to say Mr. President for being an Asshole, you are Truly the Biggest Ass Hole We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office.”
The Belleville News-Democrat, the local paper in the community where Hodgkinson reportedly lived, showed a photo of him holding a “Tax the Rich” sign in a protest outside a local post office. The newspaper described Hodgkinson this way:
“The shooter was James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, who belonged to a number of anti-Republican groups, including one called ‘Terminate the Republican Party.’”
Police officials would not comment on any motive for the shooting or whether Hodgkinson was targeting Republicans. But CNN’s Dana Bash reported that the shooting was deliberate and not a random act.
Trump made no mention of politics in a brief statement just before noon eastern time. “We are strongest when we are unified and we work together for the common good,” Trump said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both gave speeches of unity to applause on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Ryan said.