"Words weigh a ton:" Republicans and Democrats reflect on harsh tone in wake of baseball shooting

A police officer marks off a playground near the baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), two police officers and two House staffers on Wednesday.
Source: Alex Brandon/AP
A police officer marks off a playground near the baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), two police officers and two House staffers on Wednesday.
Source: Alex Brandon/AP

WASHINGTON — The leaders of the House of Representatives set a bipartisan tone Wednesday afternoon after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), two police officers and two House staffers at an Alexandria, Virginia, baseball diamond.

Members of Congress echoed that sentiment in interviews with Mic, noting how the attack motivated introspection about the heated rhetoric that often flies between Republicans and Democrats.

"Everybody is reflecting on what we all say," Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said after he listened to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.)

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) leads the ardently conservative Freedom Caucus. The group, which includes Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) who was at the baseball game, has about 30 members and has pushed House Republicans to the right, particularly on health care. That means Meadows' compatriots often draw the ire of their colleagues.

"The policy can be separated from the personal side of it," Meadows said. "You can disagree, but be civil in that discourse and disagreement."

Equipment and medical bags are seen on the Alexandria baseball field where the shooting took place.
Source: Alex Brandon/AP

Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who was at the baseball game with Scalise, seemed shaken as he described the gunman with a long rifle shooting at players in a fenced-in ballpark with one exit.

"I've been crying [for bipartisanship] for a long time," Wenstrup said, criticizing the heated rhetoric he sees from both parties. "We've got more in common than we have not in common and we need to embrace it."

"We don't know who our words touch and affect," Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said.

She reflected on Wednesday morning's meeting of the House, recalling how Pelosi said "words weigh a ton." According to Wasserman-Schultz, it prompted members to consider what words they choose and "the time and place in which we choose those words."

Often the chief aggressor in wars of words, President Donald Trump also struck a conciliatory tone on Twitter and in a Wednesday speech.

"We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country," the president said.

Tim Ryan confirmed to Mic that some Democratic members of Congress have received death threats in the wake of the shooting.

"We've got to take it down a notch, or two, or three," Ryan said of a political environment he said is more charged than in 2010. "Cool it."

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Will Drabold

Will Drabold is a policy writer at Mic. He writes Navigating Trump's America, Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America. He is based in Washington, D.C., and can be reached at wdrabold@mic.com

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