As reports spread online that shooting suspect James Hodgkinson had expressed anti-Republican sentiments, some conservative political figures and alt-right news outlets began speculating on whether Wednesday’s attack on a GOP congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., was connected to left-wing rhetoric against President Donald Trump.
Almost immediately, reports began to surface from members of Congress at the practice that, just before the shooting, someone had asked them whether the people playing on the field were Republicans or Democrats.
Authorities have not confirmed whether that person was the shooter, but some on the right quickly blamed what they said was heated rhetoric from the left surrounding Republicans and President Donald Trump.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., pointed his followers on Twitter to commentator Harlan Hill saying, “Events like today are EXACTLY why we took issue with NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President.” Recent theatrical performances, including by comedian Kathy Griffin and rapper Snoop Dogg, have portrayed President Donald Trump being hurt or killed.
"This could be the first political rhetorical terrorist attack," Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said on CNN.
Conservative radio host Michael Savage tweeted “I warned America the Dems constant drumbeat of hatred would lead to violence!”
DrudgeReport highlighted left-wing Twitter users who “celebrated” the shooting.
InfoWars, a right-wing site known for at times pushing conspiracy theories, immediately called the shooter a “leftist gunman” who participated in a "media-inspired terror attacks.”
"We have been warning for months that the mainstream media’s hysterical anti-Trump narrative and the left’s insistence that Trump is illegitimate will radicalize demented social justice warriors and prompt them to lash out with violence,” the article continues. "It looks like that’s exactly what happened today. The blood is on their hands.”
“When will the mainstream media stop radicalizing domestic terrorists with their hysterical anti-Trump narrative?” the article said in a following update once the shooter was identified.
Mike Cernovich, a “new right” Twitter celebrity who co-hosts an InfoWars radio show said on Twitter, “The fake news media is inciting violence, @RealAlexJones and I warned this would happen on yesterday’s broadcast.”
Breitbart, the site formerly run by chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, was more careful. Editor-at-large Joel Pollack wrote that the incident "may have been a deliberate, premeditated act of political violence” and if true, "would be one of the worst acts of political violence in the United States in decades.”
Pollack then wrote that Democrats and the media "rushed to blame the Tea Party for the mass shooting that nearly killed then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) in Tucson in 2011,” but that "the perpetrator was mentally disturbed and did not have political motivations.”
"Regardless of whether the gunman intended to kill Republicans specifically, if he asked about political affiliations before the attack, that would likely be enough to classify the event as an act of domestic terrorism,” Pollack wrote.
Bill Mitchell, a pro-Trump radio host, echoed Donald Trump Jr., writing on Twitter "Between sick Kathy Griffin, plays portraying Trump’s assassination and Antifa violence, is this surprising?"
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) pointed to rhetoric from Democrats that he said fuels the fires.
"I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric," Collins told the radio station. "The rhetoric has been outrageous – the finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters. Really, then, you know, some people react to things like that. They get angry as well. And then you fuel the fires.”
"Maybe this is a wake-up call," he added. "I’m not saying it will be. But let’s hope we could disagree on a more polite, conversational basis and not do things like what they did at my office a couple weeks ago."