House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, an aide to Texas Rep. Roger Williams, and two Capitol Police officers were shot early this morning in Alexandria, Virginia, after a gunman opened fire during baseball practice by a GOP congressional team. Five people were taken to the hospital for treatment, with Scalise’s office reporting that he is in stable condition and “good spirits” after being shot in the hip. The two wounded officers are reported to be stable as well, but two other unidentified victims are said to be in GW Hospital in “critical condition.” One of them is believed to be lobbyist Matt Mika, though specific information on his condition has not yet been released.
Police exchanged gunfire with the shooter—since identified by police as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill.—and wounded him. In a statement delivered at 11:30 a.m. ET, Donald Trump announced that Hodgkinson had died from his injuries.
Those who were present paint a harrowing picture, with Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake saying Hodgkinson had “a lot of ammo” and other witnesses adding that he carried a rifle “clearly meant for the job of taking people out” that he reloaded several times, before Hodgkinson and police fired “dozens” of shots at each other. “Fifty shots would be an understatement,” Flake told CNN, while Sen. Rand Paul added, “I can tell you that I think with absolute certainty nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police.”
In an interview with Fox News, Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis said he believes he spoke to the gunman as he was leaving baseball practice early with South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, saying “there was a guy that walked up to us that was asking whether there was Republicans or Democrats out there.” Both police and FBI investigators have cautioned that they’re “not aware of that” interaction; meanwhile, Duncan’s description to CNN of the man wearing “running clothes” doesn’t match the descriptions provided by Flake and Texas Rep. Joe Barton of the shooter wearing “a blue shirt and blue jeans,” prompting DeSantis to later tell Fox Business that he wasn’t certain it was the same guy, but that he felt it was “important to put that information out there.”
Whether they actually were the same man has already been rendered moot, however, by information that’s been quickly dug up about Hodgkinson, revealing that he was described as a “passionate progressive” who had campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and who had recently shared a link to a Change.org petition calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump with the status “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” Sanders has since condemned Hodgkinson’s actions:
In fact, most people—including Trump himself, displaying impressive restraint so far—have issued statements that chiefly offer thoughts and prayers to the victims, and express gratitude for the swift actions of the police. Still, others have also called out the rancor in today’s politics that seems to have inspired Hodgkinson’s actions:
Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, who was also at the baseball practice, told Fox News, “This political rhetoric and political discourse that has led to hate, has led to gunfire, this has got to stop and it’s got to stop today. I’m not going to assess who takes responsibility, but we’re all responsible for the discourse that happens in American government. We have to bind together as Americans. Not as Republicans and Democrats.”
Even Trump in his statements today said, “We may have our differences but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital…because they love their country. We are strongest when we are unified and work together for the common good.” And Speaker Paul Ryan, addressing Congress, echoed those sentiments by saying, “We are united. We are united in our shock, we are united in our anguish…. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
But others don’t share Davis’ bipartisan views. New York Rep. Chris Collins directly placed the blame on Democrats, saying, “I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Collins told WBEN. “The rhetoric has been outrageous … the finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters.” Iowa Rep. Steve King went even further, saying “the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left” from “people that can’t accept the results of the election that are determined to try to take this country down.”
Meanwhile, others have taken the opportunity to point the finger at the “mainstream media” for its many criticisms of Trump, as well as a broad swath of entertainers who have expressed anti-Trump sentiment of late, a list that ranges from Kathy Griffin to Snoop Dogg to Madonna. These bogeymen accused of having “blood on their hands” also includes William Shakespeare, whose Julius Caesar was recently refashioned—as it was during Obama’s term—to depict the assassination of Donald Trump.
Of course, many of these statements come from people whose entire careers are predicated on fomenting rage against “leftist snowflakes” who throw “temper tantrums” and suffer “Trump derangement” that has turned them into “terrorists,” or even from the immediate family of a man who openly, unapologetically bullied his way into office and has since used his administration chiefly to pick fights with his enemies and push for legislation that threatens the wellbeing of millions. Also, Frank Stallone.
But sure, a 400-year-old play about the dangers of political violence and a Kathy Griffin photo are probably responsible for all the bitter divisiveness happening in America currently.
It has already been pointed out that the idea that liberals—in the media, in Hollywood, in the streets—are collectively to blame for the violence of one man is exactly the kind of sweeping characterization that conservatives denounced after a similar attack on Gabby Giffords in 2011, pushing back against similar links to Tea Party rhetoric and the punditry of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh et al. There, conservatives argued, it was “offensive and disgusting” to attempt to tie the shooting to the fierce anti-Obama rhetoric of the day and all across cable news, insisting that this was a time for self-reflection, for everyone to quietly adopt their own resolution to temper the tone of the political conversation, and to not go shifting blame for violent tragedies onto their ideological opponents or the media that depends on fueling their arguments.
But obviously, they would argue, that was different.
Unfortunately, Hodgkinson has died, meaning he can’t comment as to what extent Julius Caesar and Kathy Griffin might have played into his decision. But you can be sure others will now step in to do it for him.