The White House pushed back today against any suggestion that Donald Trump’s rhetoric has fueled a politically toxic atmosphere that could have contributed to Wednesday’s attack on GOP lawmakers in Alexandria, Virginia.
“There has been quite a bit of attacking against the president,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Citing a dinner with Democrats earlier this week, Sanders said the president has “tried to reach out to Democrats.”
Sanders further said that it would be beneficial if the nation as a whole could “bring the temperature down a little bit. I think that was the goal he laid out yesterday.”
When Trump spoke soon after the shooting, from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, he said, “We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.”
James Hodgkinson has been identified as the shooter in the Alexandria incident, in which four people were shot and a fifth injured by shrapnel at a GOP practice for the upcoming Congressional Baseball Game. Hodgkinson was shot by law enforcement officers and died later Wednesday from his injuries.
On Facebook, a page apparently belonging to the shooter showed affiliations with online groups with incendiary names such as “Terminate the Republican Party” and “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans.” Hodgkinson also wrote a number of letters to his local newspaper blasting the GOP.
But some critics have also accused Trump of having inflamed the atmosphere with controversial statements both during his campaign and since winning election last November. After all, Trump did suggest that protestors should be carried out of his rallies on a stretcher.
“Any debate about civility in politics begins with Trump. No one has degraded discourse more, while embracing the fringe. Fact, not opinion,” New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.
Any debate about civility in politics begins with Trump. No one has degraded discourse more, while embracing the fringe. Fact, not opinion.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 15, 2017