WASHINGTON — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called comments from Republicans blaming the left’s rhetoric for Wednesday’s attack on a GOP congressional baseball practice in Virginia “outrageous.” The attack wounded five, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who is in critical condition at a Washington hospital.
“I think the comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous, beneath the dignity of the jobs they hold, beneath the dignity of the respect that we would like Congress to command,” Pelosi said Thursday when asked by a reporter about the comments. “How dare they say such a thing? How dare they?”
Pelosi didn’t name anyone when condemning the remarks, but several members of Congress and conservative pundits have suggested the left should tone down its rhetoric in response to the shooting, which was carried out by a man who appears to have been angry at President Trump and Republicans. Law enforcement has still not announced his motive for the attack.
“I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., told a local radio station Wednesday. “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.”
Most members of Congress have responded to the attack by calling for more civil dialogue across the political spectrum. And one GOP lawmaker, Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., has said Trump should take some of the blame for the country’s heated rhetoric.
Collins himself backed off his initial remarks.
“I did lash out. … After, you know, the emotion of that instance wore off, an hour or two later, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘That’s not the right tone,’” the Western New York lawmaker said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday.
He continued: “I’m willing to admit that was wrong for me to say, that would actually be going in the wrong direction, and I myself am going to try to tone down some of my rhetoric.”
Pelosi said she thinks attack ads funded by Republicans have fueled hatred and death threats against her, and she accused Republicans blaming the left for ginning up political hatred of hypocrisy.
“So this sick individual does something despicable — and it was horrible what he did, hateful — but for them to all of a sudden be sanctimonious as if they’d never seen such a thing before,” Pelosi said, trailing off.
When asked by a reporter if she believed Democrats and Republicans shared equal blame for the vitriolic tone of today’s political debate, the minority leader said no.
“It didn’t used to be this way,” Pelosi said. “Somewhere in the ’90s, Republicans decided on a politics of personal destruction when they went after the Clintons, and that is the provenance of it and that’s what has continued.”
Pelosi said now is not the time to point fingers, however. “But again I feel as if we’re having a family moment that is very, very serious and we’re talking about things that we can save for discussion for another day,” she said.
She also addressed concerns from some members about a lack of adequate security at large gatherings of members of Congress. She said she believes the Capitol Police should get a larger budget going forward and that congressional baseball practices should be secured from now on.
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