Florida congressman blasts ‘unhealthy atmosphere,’ says ‘we’re going off the rails a bit as a culture’
By Kathryn Blackhurst; LifeZette:
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) condemned the “unhealthy” political environment and the “amount of invective” that permeates the country, hours after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia. He spoke during an interview Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Suspect James Hodgkinson, 66, reportedly opened fire early Wednesday morning on GOP lawmakers and staffers practicing for the bipartisan annual Congressional Baseball Game for charity, slated for Thursday. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), a staff member for Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), and two armed Capitol Police officers were wounded. Hodgkinson died from his injuries after the police returned fire.
DeSantis, along with Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), had just left the practice when they encountered a middle-aged white man.
“He was really interested whether it was Republicans or Democrats out there,” DeSantis said. “Jeff was like, ‘It’s Republicans,’ then he turned around and started walking toward the field. So we’ll see if that’s the same guy.”
“Five, 10 minutes later, you hear that there was a shooting spree, which was just crazy,” DeSantis said. “I want to know if it was the same guy that confronted us when we were walking out.”
The Florida Republican said that both he and Duncan thought the encounter was “odd” and notified the police following the shooting. DeSantis noted that a security detail was only present at the scene because Scalise is a member of the Republican leadership. Other congress members do not usually travel with security details.
“Had Steve not been playing this year or just didn’t go [to] that practice, you’d have 15 members of Congress, 10 congressional staffers — we would have just been total sitting ducks. And I think it would have been an absolute disaster,” DeSantis said.
LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham pointed to former President Barack Obama’s 2011 remarks delivered after former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) was targeted by an assassination attempt and suffered a head wound. Up until Scalise, Giffords had been the most recent congressional shooting victim. Six people at the scene were killed, and 13 others were injured.
At the time, Obama had said, “If, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple act of civility caused this tragedy. It did not. But rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.”
Ingraham noted that the political discourse during and after President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory recently has reached new heights of viciousness, including comedian Kathy Griffin’s bloody mock beheading of Trump and a Shakespeare production depicting Julius Caesar’s murder with a Trump lookalike.
“I think it will be interesting to see who, what motivated this guy. I can tell you, aside from this incident, since the president was elected and particularly since he took office, the amount of invective that I think a lot of members of Congress have seen is much different than it has been,” DeSantis said.
“I mean, I have had people, you know, want me dead, want my wife dead. Even my six-and-a-half-month-old daughter — people call into the office or write an anonymous letter saying that they would like her to die,” DeSantis added. “So that is just not healthy. And whether there’s a connection to here or not, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Noting that the current political landscape is “definitely a difficult situation,” DeSantis warned that “it only takes one person to fly off the handle.”
“I just think that it’s really an unhealthy atmosphere. And you know, my wife called me. She’s like, ‘This politics stuff — like, you know, why?’ She’s obviously very worried,” DeSantis said. “She sees the shooting at a congressional baseball practice that we’re out in. And had Jeff and I not left, we would have been even closer to the shooter than Scalise was.”
“It’s frustrating, because our country was based on the idea that you have big, tough fights, but they’re kind of fights over policy and principle and all this other stuff,” DeSantis added. “And I think we’re going off the rails a bit as a culture, and it’s frustrating.”
To read related content visit LifeZette.