House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lambasted Republicans on Thursday, calling some conservative lawmakers “sanctimonious” for blaming Democrats after Wednesday’s shooting that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and several others wounded.
Coming just hours before the bipartisan congressional baseball game, Pelosi was somewhat hesitant when asked by reporters about the criticism of the left, in light of the shooting.
"I don’t even want to go into the president of the United States in terms of the language he has used," Pelosi said.
Nevertheless, upon a follow-up question, Pelosi cited President Donald Trump’s rhetoric as a problem in the national discourse.
“If the president says, ‘I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care,’ when you have somebody say, ‘Beat them up and I’ll pay their legal fees,’ when you have all the assaults that are made on Hillary Clinton,” the California representative said in her weekly news conference. “For them to be so sanctimonious is something that I really am almost sad that I had to go down this path with you because I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to have the fullest discussion of it.”
Many on Capitol Hill have called for unity and a de-escalation of an increasingly hostile political discourse, however some Republicans have focused specifically on blaming Democrats since the shooting.
“I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) told WBEN radio station Wednesday. “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.”
Pelosi said the toxic political discourse stems back to the early 1990s.
“Somewhere in the 1990s, Republicans decided on the politics of personal destruction as they went after the Clintons and that is the provenance of it,” Pelosi said. “And that’s what has continued.”
Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House who led the efforts to impeach former President Bill Clinton, pointed to a tendency of demonizing Trump on the left as being a cause behind the shooting.
“You’ve had a series of things, which sends signals that tell people that it’s OK to hate Trump. It’s OK [to] think of Trump in violent terms. It’s OK to consider assassinating Trump and then … suddenly, we’re supposed to rise above it — until the next time?” Gingrich said in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday.
Pelosi insisted at several points that she wanted to keep a full discussion of toxic rhetoric reserved for another day, and that this kind of bickering after a tragedy ultimately dissuades prospective candidates for higher office.
“We want to attract [young people] to public service,” Pelosi said. “I don’t think any of this discussion attracts anybody to public service, whether in terms of a noble calling or in terms of personal security.”