Sometimes, condolences come with talking points.

Soon after the news broke June 12 that a gunman had killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, members of Congress began issuing statements about the tragedy.

Some were simple expressions of outrage, sadness or solidarity; others were carefully crafted to make a case for a particular viewpoint. Either way, Republicans and Democrats tended to say, or not say, different things.

[Trump and Clinton and their very different responses to the Orlando shootings]

Social media allowed us to watch the evolution of some lawmakers’ responses. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) first tweeted a simple reaction of shock and sympathy, then as hours passed, clearly became angrier: “I will not attend one more ‘Moment of Silence’ on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them.” The next day he and a handful of fellow Democrats walked out in protest during the moment of silence on the House floor.

How many lawmakers spoke about different topics

“Thoughts

& prayers”

Addressed

LGBT community

DEM

GOP

123

19

114

199

Mentioned

“hate”

Condemned

terrorism

94

24

89

146

Advocated

gun control

Stated support

for gun rights

79

0

0

9

Praised first

responders

Used phrases

similar to

“radical Islam”

 

3

80

46

68

Criticized Obama

administration

0

12

How many lawmakers spoke about different topics

“Thoughts

& prayers”

Addressed

LGBT community

Mentioned

“hate”

DEM

GOP

114

199

123

19

94

24

Condemned

terrorism

Used phrases similar

to “radical Islam”

Praised first

responders

3

89

146

80

46

68

Advocated

gun control

Stated support

for gun rights

Criticized Obama

administration

79

0

12

0

0

9

Highlight lawmakers from your state in this story:

A few members of Congress, such as Rep. Brian Babin (R-Tex.), chose to address immigration, even though this shooter was born in New York: “It’s time we put political correctness aside and end the President's rush to admit 10,000 poorly screened Syrian refugees before he leaves office.”

Below are statements put out by lawmakers about the shooting. Many are official statements, but in the absence of something formal, we used the first mention of the event that appeared on a lawmaker’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. Out of 535 members of Congress and six nonvoting delegates, several dozen had made no mention of the shooting on social media or their official websites as of late Wednesday.

[Jim Himes: Why I walked out of the House's moment of silence]

‘Thoughts and prayers’

Click a phrase to read lawmaker's full statement

Mentioned thoughts and/or prayers

Dem. GOP
House 94 165
Senate 20 34
114 199

The majority of lawmakers in both parties mentioned thinking about or praying for people in Orlando, often specifically mentioning victims, families, first responders and the LGBT community. “Thoughts and prayers” was one of the most common phrases in the statements, and many chose not to elaborate much beyond that.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham issued a simple tweet: “This is a horrific day for America. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims, survivors, and those touched by this terrible tragedy.”

[When people pray for Orlando, is it empathetic or selfish?]

Terrorism and ‘radical Islam’

Click a phrase to read lawmaker's full statement

Many lawmakers mentioned terrorism ...

Dem. GOP
House 67 120
Senate 22 26
89 146

... but those who mentioned Islam were almost exclusively Republican

Dem. GOP
House 2 74
Senate 1 6
3 80

Nearly half of Republicans and more than a third of Democrats mentioned terrorism in various ways, but a quarter of Republicans specifically referred to “radical Islam” in some form. Only three Democrats did.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) referred to “vicious Islamist theology,” and Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) said, “I believe this is truly a world war: radical Islam versus mankind.”

Several Republicans directly called out President Obama for his reluctance to use the phrase, such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who said he had met Seddique Mateen, the shooter’s father, in 2014, but didn’t remember him: “This attack was not merely a hate crime; it was a terrorist attack motivated by radical Islamic ideology. It is long overdue for the president to take another look at how to approach this challenge. We will know he understands when he starts using the right words.”

[Top Republicans join Obama in condemning Trump’s questioning of Obama’s allegiances]

The gun issue

Click a phrase to read lawmaker's full statement

Lawmakers who brought up gun rights ...

Dem. GOP
House 0 8
Senate 0 1
0 9

... and those who brought up gun control

Dem. GOP
House 67 0
Senate 12 0
79 0

Democrats mentioned guns far more often than Republicans and generally advocated tightening restrictions on gun purchases and banning or limiting access to assault weapons. Others generally lamented the gun culture in the United States.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) blamed Congress for its inaction: “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable, deafening silence. This doesn't have to happen, but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing — again.” On Wednesday and into Thursday, Murphy led a filibuster to force a vote on gun-control measures on the House floor.

[In wake of Orlando shootings, gun control getting a fresh look from GOP]

Two Republicans, Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and David W. Jolly (R-Fla.), mentioned gun violence, but most of the GOP members whose statements addressed guns decried anticipated attempts to tighten gun laws.

For example, this is the first sentence from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.): “President Obama has already politicized this tragic event to promote gun control, but it's another clear example of why gun free zones are a terrible idea.”

[Why it makes perfect sense that Chris Murphy is leading a gun-control filibuster]

The gay community

Click a phrase to read lawmaker's full statement

Lawmakers who mentioned the gay community in their statements

Dem. GOP
House 102 15
Senate 21 4
123 19

Statements from Democratic lawmakers were far more likely to include a reference to the LGBT community or note that the attack took place during Pride Month. “Standing with the gay community” was a common sentiment.

Said Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Fla.): "This was an attack on the LGBT community and all Americans — and all Americans must stand with their community today."

[ House GOP to decide whether to allow LGBT votes in wake of Orlando shooting]

Several GOP members also emphatically decried the shooting as a hate crime. Among them was Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who called the shooting an “Anti-Gay Terrorist Attack” in the headline over his statement.

[In speech, Trump appears to embrace LGBT rights — but gay leaders remain skeptical]

Every statement from members of Congress

Thoughts and prayers

Mentions “hate”

First responders

LGBT

Criticizes Obama

Terrorism

Gun control

Gun rights

Mentions of “radical Islam” or similar phrases

Note: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus S. King Jr. (I-Maine) caucus with the Democrats and are counted as such in these totals.

Additional work by Cristina Rivero and Stephanie Stamm

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