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A blizzard of commentary swept conservative media in the wake of a shooting by Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson at a congressional baseball practice that left Republican Rep. Steve Scalise and four others wounded.
A number of conservative outlets dug deep into Hodgkinson’s past online activity and politics. “Let me put some caveats right up front,” Hot Air’s John Sexton wrote. "The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, is responsible for his own actions. With that said, it is reasonable to wonder what was going on in the shooter’s head prior to his act of violence.” He and Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, as well as others, noted that he had belonged to a number of anti-Republican Facebook groups. From Breitbart:
The Facebook profile is linked to a number of left-wing, anti-Republican groups, including “Terminate The Republican Party,” among others:
Hodgkinson reportedly maintained other social media accounts that authorities are probing.
Early in the day, the Resurgent’s Erick Erickson set the tone for much of the writing on Hodgkinson’s motivations that would follow. “Just as the GOP should stop coddling people like Alex Jones who fuels deranged people on the right and use of the word ‘subhuman’ should be barred from discussions about political opponents,” he wrote, “the Democrat leaders in Washington and their political allies should stop claiming the GOP wants everyone to die and the world to be a cesspool.”:
For the last several months, the political left in this country has amped up the rhetoric to an unprecedented degree and when anyone confronts them with it they engage in whataboutisms over various Republican statements about Barack Obama.
They have spread a fable that Donald Trump has collaborated with the Russians to steal the election. On top of that fable they have spread lies that the GOP is covering up that election theft. With the President walking away from the Paris Accord, Democrats and the political left have tried to mainstream the belief that the GOP wants to kill off Americans and destroy the world. Well respected intellectuals among the left have called the GOP a criminal enterprise and worse.
Political activists maintain the GOP is going to kill people by repealing Obamacare. They maintain the GOP wants to put black people back in chains. They maintain the GOP wants to see the planet uninhabitable.
Michelle Malkin also blamed the attack on “unhinged” left-wing rhetoric. “Are there any decent Democrats or left-wingers in the public square willing to acknowledge the existence of their own climate of hate,” she asked, “festering with misogyny, liberal racism, and assassination fascination?” The Federalist’s Ben Domenech tweeted that the purveyors of anti-Republican rhetoric should feel guilty about the shooting.
Today is a nightmare for everyone fomenting extreme anti-Republican sentiment without thought to the crazies who would believe them.— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) June 14, 2017
Rush Limbaugh called Hodgkinson a member of “ the deranged base of the Democrat Party”:
If you look at the TV programs and the media personalities that this guy, Hodgkinson, was devoted to, you’ll find out how radicalized he was by left-wing TV and comedy.
Last week Tonight With John Oliver, the Nightly Show on the Comedy Central, Democracy Now, The Ed Show, the Rachel Maddow Show. He apparently loved Rachel Maddow, wanted her to run for president. The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Real Time with Bill Maher. Those are the TV shows that he recommended everybody watch. Clearly, he was radicalized.
Now, I also want to say he probably started off this way. I don’t know that this guy’s ever been a rational, invisible functioning member of a community, but at some point he got radicalized, and if you dig deep you’ll find — we’ve got examples of it to share with you.
“Let’s hope the leftist politicking of choice—mayhem and violence, whatever means to justify a leftist vision end—hasn’t led to the actual shooting of Republicans, to the actual hunting of GOP members,” wrote the Washington Times’ Cheryl Chumley. “Because that would be more than crazy. It would be the end of the republic, as we know it.” “How many innocent people have to die before we realize that words do matter?” Fox News’ Eric Bolling asked. “Crazy people act on the crazy things they hear from politicians and celebrities.”
Townhall’s Katie Pavlich claimed that mainstream news outlets were obscuring Hodgkinson’s ties to Bernie Sanders and was defended by National Review editor Rich Lowry.
Front page of MSM news sites not showing this guy was a Bernie volunteer, no doubt would be top headline if he was a Trump volunteer— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) June 14, 2017
right,but @KatiePavlich is making a difft pt abt the media intensity/interest there would be around his politics if he were trump supporter— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) June 14, 2017
Conservative television personality Harlan Hill connected the shooting to the Public Theatre’s Trump-themed staging of Julius Caesar.
Events like today are EXACTLY why we took issue with NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President— Harlan Z. Hill (@Harlan) June 14, 2017
At Townhall, Guy Benson wrote that the shooter alone should be held culpable for his actions and criticized liberals for blaming right-wing political rhetoric for previous attacks. “I'll concede that it's beyond maddening to watch large elements of the Left routinely attribute horrible acts to conservatives as a whole, even when the actual perpetrators end up having zero affiliation with the political Right,” he wrote. “Ultimately, however, using the heinous actions of a disturbed person as a cudgel against millions of law-abiding citizens who may share some of his political views is unfair and wrong. If the pitched ideological battles of the day ‘require’ a dumb, demagogic American circular firing squad, count me out.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro agreed:
[I]s it right to blame Sanders and leftist ideology more broadly for Wednesday’s shooting?
Of course not.
Rhetoric is not directly responsible for violence unless it advocates violence. Radical jihadism advocates violence; the bulk of its supporters know this and support violence; a solid contingent of its followers participate in violence. The same is not true for American-brand political leftism, as vile as it is. For the right to equate verbiage with violence – no matter how inflammatory the verbiage – is to fall prey to the same snowflake syndrome the right condemns on college campuses.
“Is ‘assassination chic,’ like Kathy Griffin’s photo shoot awful?,” National Review’s Jim Geraghty asked. “Yes, and it deserves to be called out as beyond the pale. But Kathy Griffin, for all of her flaws, didn’t tell this guy to go shoot up Republicans playing baseball. The shooter made the choice.” In another post at National Review calling the shooting “a textbook example of lone-wolf progressive terrorism,” David French issued a call for a return to “ordered liberty” and “virtue”:
I’ve grown to dislike calls for “civility” in public discourse. In practice, they tend to be one-sided and dishonest. There are times when anger is an appropriate and even necessary response to injustice. Was Jesus “civil” when he drove the moneychangers out of the Temple? Was He “civil” when he condemned Pharisees as “white-washed tombs,” beautiful on the outside but “full of dead men’s bones” on the inside? Instead, I prefer to echo Burke and Adams. Morality and virtue are concepts that point the way toward a far more holistic view of personal responsibility. (Or, to quote Scripture again, “In your anger, do not sin.”) What we’re losing isn’t so much “civility” but the fundamental worldview in which even our ideological enemies are seen as human beings created in God’s image and in which an “ends justifies the means” instrumentalist morality is shunned in favor of respecting universal moral standards that bind both sides.
A number of outlets criticized Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife for saying “93 million” Americans a day die from gun violence in a statement made in the wake of the shooting. “Unfortunately for McAuliffe,” RedState’s Teri Christoph wrote, “he blew his opportunity to appear presidential in favor of politicizing a national tragedy.”
Several outlets criticized liberals more broadly for tweeted responses to the attack. “Several progressives even went out of their way to suggest the victims deserved to get shot because they have the wrong views on gun control, or Obamacare, or Donald Trump,” a Federalist post called “Progressives Agree: Those Republicans Deserved to Get Shot” read.
There was praise for Rep. Mo Brooks, who was on the scene of the shooting and later told a reporter that the incident hadn’t changed his mind about gun control. “In a few terrifying minutes, Representative Brooks risked his life to help others and then—later—had the presence of mind to defend an essential liberty passionately and eloquently,” National Review’s David French wrote. “It’s hard to imagine a better example of leadership under fire. Well done.”
Finally, the Federalist’s Jordyn Pair wrote that the shooting proves America needs less gun control:
Because of the presence of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who is among congressional leadership, an armed security detail was on site. This means that when alleged shooter James Hodgkinson opened fire, people immediately started shooting back.
When tragedies like this happen, it’s many people’s reaction to call for more laws and restrictions. But stopping lawbreakers from obtaining firearms is not possible. Disarming citizens doesn’t also disarm criminals. And the best defense against a gun is another gun.