A former South Carolina governor said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is not free from blame for the heated political environment prior to the shooting Wednesday that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, and four others during a charity baseball game practice in Virginia.
During an interview on MSNBC Thursday morning, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford R-SC said Trump’s inflammatory outbursts encourage violence in politics.
“I would argue that (what) the President has unleashed is partially, again not in any way totally, but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed,” he said.
The FBI identified Wednesday’s shooter as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson. Media reports say the Illinois native had been actively against Republican policies the past few years. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Hodgkinson had been a low-level volunteer on his unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign. A Facebook page linked to Hodgkinson was heavily anti-Trump in its commentary and referred to the president as a “traitor,” although none of the language was violent in nature.
Despite the shooter’s left-leaning positions, Sanford said he believes people in the United States hear President Trump’s words and mimic his divisiveness. To Sanford, the President’s words have consequences and are unusual in a civilized government.
“The fact that, you know, you’ve got the top guy saying, ‘Well I wish I could hit you in the face’ and, if not, ‘Why don’t you and I’ll pay your legal fees,’ that’s bizarre and we ought to call it as such,” Sanford emphasized.
Sanford says he’s seen his constituents mimic the president’s fiery language, on both sides of the political aisle. He mentioned a moment at a senior center during a recent town hall where elderly voters began to scream obscenities at each other over political differences. He worries that Trump’s rhetoric could send the United States into a dark place politically.
“If you let these forces play out I think you end up in a very, very bad spot,” said Sanford. “I think what happened (Wednesday) is symptomatic of it.”