High-profile Republicans in Congress moved quickly to denounce political violence aimed at Democrats on Wednesday, even as some of their colleagues across the aisle blamed President Donald Trump for working the nation into a frenzy.
Suspicious packages, potentially containing explosive devices, were intercepted at the homes of the Clintons and Obamas and at CNN’s headquarters. Democratic donor George Soros had a similar package sent to him this week.
Whip Steve Scalise, who has seen violence in politics first-hand, was among the first lawmakers to weigh in. When a gunman opened fire at a baseball practice for congressional Republicans in June 2017, he sustained a severe hip injury.
The Louisiana Republican has emerged as a leading critic of aggressive rhetoric in political campaigns, even within his own party. Earlier this month he called out a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania who threatened to “stomp all over” his opponent’s face while wearing golf spikes.
Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who received threatening calls from a man in Arizona earlier this year, called the threats “absolutely despicable. Despicable. It’s disgusting.”
“You know there’s a guy serving in jail right now for threatening to kill me. These people need to be held accountable. This is not the way for us to sort out our differences and it’s just absolutely wrong and despicable,” the Senate hopeful told reporters after a tour of a the Universal Technical Institute in Avondale, Ariz., on Wednesday.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other prominent Republicans also took to Twitter.
These attempted attacks that have been made are beyond criminal, they are acts of pure terror. Violence and terror have no place in our politics or anywhere else in our society.— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 24, 2018
Those behind such reprehensible acts must be brought to justice. We cannot tolerate any attempt to terrorize public figures. I am grateful to the @SecretService, Capitol Police, and all law enforcement who guard against these threats. https://t.co/HUQQxynU9h— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) October 24, 2018
Meanwhile, some Democrats saw in the attacks a reflection of what the Republican Party has become.
Rep. David E. Price blamed Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, tweeting “Words matter. Leadership matters. This is the country @realDonaldTrump has created, and he must condemn such acts of terrorism in the strongest terms.”
David E. Price (@RepDavidEPrice) October 24, 2018
Appeals to the American way, regardless of party, were a common thread for Republicans. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina called for citizens to “settl[e] things at the ballot box,” while Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said any attack on a Democrat, Republican or independent “is an attack on America.”
The American way is engaging in civil debate & settling things at the ballot box. Violence and domestic terrorism have no place in our society. The perpetrators who targeted the Obamas, Clintons and the media must be held accountable & punished to the fullest extent of the law.— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) October 24, 2018
An attack on an American who happens to be a Democrat, Republican or Independent is an attack on America. The terrorist behind this will soon find out that while a free people have politics that are conflictive,if you try to kill any of us you will have to face all of us.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 24, 2018
Attacks and threats against anyone, Democrat or Republican, are not okay. We must find those responsible and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.Don't let politics do this to our nation. https://t.co/CRym03ZnLw — Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) October 24, 2018
Some Republicans described a disintegrating political climate and warned of what will happen if, as Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas put it, Americans “bend to the political passions of the moment.” This sort of “violent expression cannot be our future,” he wrote.
We must not bend to the political passions of the moment in this type of cowardly way – and whoever is culpable for this heinous crime must be held accountable to the fullest extent. This type of violent expression cannot be our future. https://t.co/Ar26qRSGM6— Senator Jerry Moran (@JerryMoran) October 24, 2018
Plain and simple - violence has no place in our society. From that day last summer on the baseball field to today, we are heading down a slippery slope. The extremism has to stop. We cannot afford for this to become an accepted part of our day today. https://t.co/PsVLs9vP9D— Tom Reed (@RepTomReed) October 24, 2018
Violence is never OK. Reports of bombs sent to the homes of Obama, Clinton, and Soros are deeply, deeply disturbing. America is better than this. Political disagreements are fine, even healthy, but we should always be civil and respect each other’s humanity.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 24, 2018
Others stressed law and order. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said law enforcement will “hunt down the criminals who did this,” while Sen. John Thune thanked first responders who rushed to the scenes.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California used his statement as a plea towards unification, across party lines while Chairman of the Republican Conference Sen. John Thune of South Dakota thanked first responders.
Our country stands united in the face of attempted terrorism targeting President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and CNN. Rest assured law enforcement will hunt down the criminals who did this and bring them to justice.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) October 24, 2018
Threats of violence toward any American are unacceptable. Whoever is responsible must be found and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. A huge thank you to law enforcement and first responders for all they do to keep us safe.— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) October 24, 2018
Thank you to our @FBI, @SecretService, and other law enforcement professionals for their swift responses. The perpetrators of these acts of violence should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.— Senator Mike Crapo (@MikeCrapo) October 24, 2018
Political violence has no place in our society. We are better than this. Americans from across the political spectrum must join together to condemn these attacks. Thank you to @NYPDnews & @SecretService for your swift action to ensure safety.— Dan Donovan (@dandonovan_ny) October 24, 2018
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.