Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed right-wing political rhetoric for the 2011 shooting of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords in a fundraising email sent just days after the incident.
Sanders’ name emerged in connection with Wednesday’s shooting at a practice of the Republican congressional baseball team in Alexandria, Va., which left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital.
The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, was a devoted follower of the senator, according to his social media activities. Press reports quickly identified him as a volunteer on Sanders’ ill-fated presidential campaign, and Hodgkinson’s Facebook profile picture was an image of the senator’s visage transposed over Uncle Sam.
Sanders savaged Republicans by email just days after Giffords was shot outside a grocery store in Casas Adobes, Ariz. on Jan. 8, 2011. Six people were killed and nearly 20 were injured. In the days after the shooting, an assortment of left-wing commentators and politicians inculpated the “violent rhetoric” of the ascendant Tea Party movement for the shooting. The gunman, Jared Loughner, espoused various conspiracy theories but was not political in the ordinary sense.
The email, sent just days after the Gifford shooting, reads:
In light of all of this violence – both actual and threatened – is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process? Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions? My colleague, Senator John McCain, issued a very strong statement after the shooting in which he condemned the perpetrator of the attack. I commend him for that. But I believe Senator McCain and other Arizona Republicans need to do more. As the elder statesman of Arizona politics McCain needs to stand up and denounce the increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the right-wing and exert his influence to create a civil political environment in his state.
After Wednesday’s events, Sanders immediately and expressly condemned the shooter’s actions.
“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign,” the senator said in a statement. “I am sickened by this despicable act.”
“Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” he added.
The senator’s office has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s inquiries.
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