The confessed shooter who massacred members of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, made it clear that he sought his victims out because of their race and wanted to start a race war. However, Republican politicians and Fox News pundits have either feigned ignorance about the shooter’s admitted motivations or have come up with alternative explanations for the massacre.
While conservative pundits have blasted people for stating that the attack on a black church was a hate crime — based on statements by a witness to the massacre and the shooter himself — many seem to have no problem speculating wildly about other possible explanations. In fact, the only thing they are more angry about is the suggestion that the shooting had anything do with guns.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, furious that President Obama linked the shooting to America’s problem with gun violence dismissed any discussion of the country’s gun laws, saying that the shooter in Charleston was probably drugged-up.
While Perry called the attack “a crime of hate,” he also described it as “an accident.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum posited that the attack was part of a larger “assault on religious liberty,” a recurring theme that Santorum and other Republicans use on the campaign trail to blast gay rights laws and the separation of church and state. Lindsey Graham, another presidential candidate, made a similar claim: “There are people out there, looking for Christians to kill them.”
The pundits at Fox News, where many of the GOP leaders get their talking points, were in agreement. Steve Doocy said it’s “extraordinary” that the police called the attack a hate crime since it was “was a white guy apparently and a black church,” positing that the attack was the result of the shooter’s “hostility towards Christians.” Brian Kilmeade said the shooter “hates Christian churches” and Elisabeth Hasselbeck called it an “attack on faith,” all the while ignoring the shooter’s explicit mentions of race.
E.W. Jackson, a Fox News contributor, agreed: “Most people jump to the conclusions about race, I long for the day we stop doing that in our country,” before he himself assumed that the shooter was motivated by hatred of Christians. In a radio show interview, Jackson said that gay people, liberals and President Obama all were culpable since the shooting was likely the result of “growing hostility and antipathy to Christianity” and “the biblical worldview about sexuality.”
RedState founder Erick Erickson had a similar take, even throwing Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition into the mix: “A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and ‘a new normal’ cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness — overwhelming narcissism and delusion — and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.”
Fox News contributor Alveda King revealed the real reason for the shooting: the legalization of abortion.
“It’s a lack of value for human life…You kill babies in the womb, kill people in their beds, shoot people on the streets, so now you go into the church when people are praying,” she said.
Alex Jones was upset that “the police and Obama keep talking about how coldblooded it was to go sit down with people in a church, and it was, super coldblooded, but isn’t it more coldblooded to kill babies and then go have lunch?”
Blame The Victims
National Rifle Association board member Charles Cotton had some strong words for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people killed in the shooting, who was the pastor of the church and a state senator: “[H]e voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”
Not to be outdone, the leaders of Gun Owners of America, father-son duo Larry and Erich Pratt, also blamed Pinckney. The younger Pratt, the organization’s communications director, called Pinckney an “anti-gun activist,” while Larry Pratt blasted Pinckney for supposedly leaving his congregation “defenseless.”
Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio similarly accused the pastor of turning the church “into a shooting gallery.”
Jeb Bush opened his remarks today at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority summit by saying that no one can ever really know the true motivation behind the attack. Later, he told reporters that he still doesn’t know why the shooter carried out the attack:
Jeb Bush: “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man” who shot up the church in Charleston
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) June 19, 2015
I just asked Jeb if the shooting was racially motivated. He said “I don’t know”
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) June 19, 2015
Bush eventually clarified that he thinks the attack was racially motivated, but he isn’t alone in pleading ignorance.
Even South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said on her Facebook page that “we’ll never understand what motivates anyone” to commit such an atrocity.