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GOP Congressman: 'Hateful Rhetoric That Has Consumed Politics, on Both Sides, Has to Stop'

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) talks with the media in the Capitol after a shooting at the Republicans' baseball practice in Alexandria on June 14, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — A GOP congressman who was at the scene of Wednesday’s shooting during baseball practice at an Alexandria park is calling for an end to “political rhetorical terrorism,” saying the hateful comments he’s received on social media in response to this request prove his point.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) tweeted after the attack that “the over-the-top, hateful rhetoric that has consumed politics, on both sides, has to stop.”

“We can have thoughtful debate on the issues, and at times disagree, but we cannot forget that we are all represented by the same flag and the freedom it represents,” he added.

Davis was up to bat when the shooting began at the early-morning Republican team practice. He and two others were able to run to a nearby apartment.

Shooter James T. Hodgkinson, 66, had recently arrived in Northern Virginia from Davis’ home state. “The pictures you see show that he’s been engaged in politics and in policy and protesting. We can’t let our policy differences tear this country apart with polarization. It’s up to us to say enough is enough. We can protest our differences. Let’s settle that at the ballot box. I’ve been yelled at and spat at walking in the streets in Illinois. I’ve had protesters come saying our policies are killing people,” the congressman told CNN on Wednesday.

“…We, as Americans, not just members of Congress, as Republicans and Democrats, we’ve got to take this day as our day to put an end to it, and that means all of us, the media, social media. Let’s come together and discuss our policy differences, but let’s not make it so personal, which obviously led to this.”

Davis emphasized that after the shooting one Democratic colleague called immediately to see if he was OK, and other Dems hugged him once he returned to Congress.

“We may have our differences, but we can get by those differences, and we can do what our forefathers told us to do in this Congress, and I want to make sure that we do that and show that to everyone in America tomorrow night,” he said of tonight’s congressional baseball game, which will be televised live on C-SPAN at 7 p.m. EST.

This morning on MSNBC, Davis reiterated “we have to ratchet down this hateful political rhetoric that we see all over social media, all over the news media in Washington, in our state houses.”

“All you have to do, you can go to my social media today and see some of this vile, hateful rhetoric, when the message I’m trying to send is a message of bipartisanship that I participate in every single day in Washington,” he said. “I’m steps from the House chamber. Many of your viewers would not think that some of my best friends in Washington are Democrats I serve with. The majority of the issues we face here, we do in a bipartisan way. It’s those other issues where we have large policy disagreements that seem to create an atmosphere, where we’ve seen this hateful rhetoric and polarization rise.”

Davis accused the shooter of turning “politics into his religion” and “that’s why I stand here today to say enough is enough.”

“Serving in Washington already, with so many good people of both parties. I don’t see that hyperpartisanship that we see in the 24-hour news cycle and we see in — on social media,” he added.