Flashback: Bernie Sanders Fundraises off Giffords Shooting, Says Republicans ‘Need to Do More’

UNITED STATES, Des Moines : Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders gestures during the second Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sheslow Auditorium of Drake University on November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. AFP PHOTO/ MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN

In the wake of the 2011 Tucson, Arizona, shooting, which left Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords in critical condition and six people dead, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sent out a fundraising email blaming “right-wing reactionaries” such as Sarah Palin for the tragedy and called on Arizona Republicans to “do more” in response to the shooting.

“This horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate,” Sanders said in his January 2011 email, just days after the shooting. “Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred.”

Sanders noted prior incidents in Arizona, such as a pistol falling from a protester’s pocket two years before and Sarah Palin’s now famous “map” in which she placed Gifford’s district in crosshairs, indicating it was a target for Republicans.

Apparently unwilling to dismiss the Giffords’ shooting as the singular act of a crazed madman, Sanders went on to draw broader conclusions from the shooting in the fundraising email and went on to blame Republicans and “right-wing reactionaries” at large.

“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?” he asked.

“Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?” he asked.

In the email, Sanders went on to praise Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his statement in the wake of the shooting. But it was not enough for Sanders, who called on McCain to denounce “violent rhetoric” from the right.

“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.”

The email is likely to make awkward reading for Sanders and his supporters in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting at a Republican baseball field, apparently by a Sanders supporter — a shooting which left Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) in critical condition and three others injured.

The suspect, James T. Hodgkinson, reportedly campaigned for the Vermont senator, and his Facebook profile’s cover image was that of a smiling Sanders.

In a statement after the shooting, Sanders said he was “sickened” by what he called a “despicable act” and called “violence of any kind” unacceptable. However, he did not condemn the increasingly violent and hysterical rhetoric coming from his side of the political aisle, as he called McCain and other Republicans to do in 2011.

Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.


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