Lawmakers reacting to the shooting Wednesday assailed the anger simmering in the country, and one Republican congressman tied the shooting to what he said was anger from the political left.
“America has been divided,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who, in suit and tie, stopped by the crime scene to pray and was viscerally angry about his colleagues being attacked. “And the center of America is disappearing, and the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left.”
When asked whether he thought the shooting was politically motivated, King said he did not know why the gunman did what he did, but said: “I’m really not that interested to tell you the truth. If he were on his way to the morgue, it wouldn’t make me sorry at all.”
Law enforcement officials have identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson III, 66, of Belleville, Ill. Police have not released any motive for the shooting or tied it to any political beliefs.
A Facebook page belonging to a person with the same name included rhetoric against President Trump and pictures of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the former Democratic presidential candidate. On Wednesday, a person who met Hodgkinson in Iowa when both worked on Sanders’s campaign described him as a “mellow,” progressive man who showed no sign of violence or malice.
Sanders released a statement also calling for an end to the violence, joining others who were responding to the shooting at a morning baseball practice featuring Republican members of Congress and their staffs.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said on Twitter that the shooter “obviously planned to kill many Republican members,” while Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) tweeted about addressing the “anger of so many Americans.”
King, in his remarks at the shooting scene, said it was impossible to separate the hyperpartisan climate in Washington — especially people protesting Trump — with Republican members of Congress being fired upon at a baseball practice.
“The divisions within the country, people that can’t accept the results of the election that are determined to try to take this country down, take this organization down,” he said. “This city was filled up with demonstrations the day after the inauguration, where you couldn’t drive down the streets. And we’ve had demonstrations every week since then, sometimes different topics.”
King added: “We do need to focus on what’s happening to the culture in this country.”