Former House Speaker and current political pundit Newt Gingrich has blamed the mass shooting against GOP lawmakers in Virginia on liberal opposition to the administration of President Donald Trump. Gingrich asserted that the gunman was given implicit permission to commit violence from activists on college campuses and Democratic lawmakers who use coarse language.
On June 14, James Hodgkinson of Illinois opened fire during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman injured five people, including Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, before dying from wounds sustained during a shootout with Capitol Police.
The baseball practice was attended by GOP lawmakers and their congressional aides. Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina recalled to CNBC that Hodgkinson had asked if they were Republicans before opening fire.
Hodgkinson was a self-identified political independent who supported progressive policies, with an intense focus on taxation. Between 2008 through 2012, the suspect penned multiple letters blasting the GOP to his local Illinois newspaper, The Washington Post reports.
In November 2011, Hodgkinson wrote that if Republican lawmakers "weren't so full of hate, they could see what they are doing to this country -- selling it to the Chinese just so they can keep more of the millions."
Gingrich swiftly attributed Hodgkinson's actions to his political leanings, asserting that liberal Americans were increasingly violent since Trump's election.
"It's part of a pattern, an increasing intensity of hostility on the left," Gingrich told Fox News.
The former House Speaker recalled that he had met college students "who say that if they are openly for Trump, they get threatened… some of them get death threats."
Gingrich also referenced controversial depictions of Trump, from a publicity stunt by comedian Kathy Griffin that resulted in her firing from CNN and a rendition of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" that used the president's likeness. The political pundit also blamed Democratic lawmakers for using swear words.
"The intensity is very real, whether it's a so-called comedian holding up the president's head covered in blood, or right here in New York City, a play that shows the president being assassinated, or it's Democratic leading national politicians using vulgarity because they can't find any common language to talk," Gingrich concluded.
Fox News reporter Melissa Francis challenged Gingrich's take on the mass shooting.
"With respect, though, even if everything you're saying is true, to talk about it in those kinds of terms, in left and right, right now in the wake of it, does that make sense?… do you rise above it, and say... ?" Francis asked.
Gingrich responded "No."
Hodgkinson had a record of assault; in 2006, the gunman was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm. Those charges were later dismissed, The Daily Beast reports.
Former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, who had suffered a head wound during a 2011 mass shooting, released a statement expressing support for the Alexandria victims, ABC News reports.
"It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican… This shooting is an attack on all who serve and on all who participate in our democracy," Giffords said.
The retired congresswoman added "May all Americans come together today with prayers for the survivors, love for their friends and family, and the courage to go about everyday making this country its best."