Speaking to host Fred Dicker on Albany radio station WGDJ, Tenney said she feared that “a lot of these legal gun owners are going to be targeted now,” even though “in their demographic they have the least amount of crimes than virtually any other demographic.”
Dicker responded by arguing that most gun crimes take place “in what’s euphemistically called the inner cities involving minorities, and they’re the ones that Democrats generally are going to bend over backwards to protect.”
“Obviously there’s a lot of politics in it,” Tenney said in response. “It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats … but the media doesn’t talk about that either.”
Tenney, who is running for reelection in a hotly contested congressional district in Central New York, did not provide any evidence to back up her claim. Her comments provoked ire from Democrats in New York and Washington.
New York Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Utica running to unseat Tenney, tweeted that her “toxic rhetoric is shameful and a new low.”
“Inserting politics into a national tragedy is beyond the pale & disgusting,” he wrote. “She should apologize now to spare our region any more national embarrassment.”
Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), tweeted that Tenney “owes America a sincere and abject apology.”
Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called Tenney’s comments “unhinged, shameful and disgusting.”
He mentioned two other recent episodes in which Tenney gave controversial remarks. In a radio interview last week, she suggested that the domestic abuse allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter were not “crimes of character.” And in an earlier interview on CNN, she said Democrats who refrained from applauding during the State of the Union address were “un-American.”
“Once again Congresswoman Tenney has demonstrated how completely unfit she is to serve in Congress,” Lukaske said.
In a statement later Wednesday, Tenney defended her remarks, pointing fingers at the left for politicizing mass shootings.
“I am fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy,” Tenney said in email statement to The Washington Post.
“While we know the perpetrators of these atrocities have a wide variety of political views, my comments are in response to a question about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime,” she added. “I will continue to stand up for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists.”
When running for Congress, Tenney was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, which gave her an “A” rating. She has described herself as a “life member of the NRA, gun owner and shooting sports enthusiast” who is committed to defending the Second Amendment. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016 and was previously a member of the state Assembly.
In her radio interview with Dicker, Tenney also suggested that mass shootings did not take place decades ago, when fewer gun restrictions existed. Some students even brought guns to school with them in those days, she said.
Today, she said, there is a different “social dynamic” within communities. She argued that gun-free zones in schools, social media and a culture of isolation have played roles in increasing violence.
“We have this antisocial behavior, which is part of what I think social media has caused, a lack of interaction with people,” Tenney said. “People tend to hide behind their computers or their phones.”