WASHINGTON — A congressman who publicly forgave a man who threatened his life on social media called for “more dialogue in our country and fewer rallies” to turn down the temperature.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) held a press conference last week with Pierre Alejandro Verges Castro, 19, who tweeted, “I will kill Carlos Curbelo.” Verges Castro was arrested by the FBI.
“Early this week, I informed the state attorney I had no interest in pressing charges against Pierre. Yesterday when he and I met, Pierre offered his sincere apologies. Today I want everyone to know I forgave him,” Curbelo said at the press conference.
“As for Pierre, I wish him the best. He made a mistake and his life should not be ruined because of it. I truly believe in second chances,” he added.
Verges Castro stood next to Curbelo but didn’t speak; the congressman said this was because of an open case with the state attorney.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted afterward, “What a great display of unity and civility at a time when we desperately need it! @RepCurbelo is a role model. #Civility”
Curbelo told MSNBC on Sunday that he has “a lot of hope because most of the people who are speaking in these terms, who are saying hateful things, are like this young man, like Pierre Alejandro.”
“People who don’t really mean it, there are just things going on in their lives. Our culture has been so toxic that they feel it’s OK to say these things,” he said, adding that police told him they thought the tweeter was seeking attention more than actually intending to carry out the threat.
“And that’s when I said, well, let me sit down with him, let me understand why someone would say something like this, and let’s figure out if we can make this something positive,” he continued. “I didn’t want this young man’s, the rest of his life to be ruined with a felony charge. I certainly hope he doesn’t get charged, I don’t think he will. But I think it’s an example of how we can start healing in this country. Rather than dehumanizing, discarding the people who attack us who say mean and nasty things to us, let’s try to have a conversation with them.”
Curbelo said President Trump has “certainly contributed to this” but “it’s a mistake to think that this is all his fault.”
“We all have to look in the mirror. That means all the politicians. That means members of the media. And, of course, it means every single American because we all contributed to what we’re living in our country today,” he added.
Rallies should be scaled back, Curbelo said, because “all they do is highlight our differences.”
“Figure out where we can meet in the middle. That conversation isn’t had at these rallies,” he said. “These rallies are about putting other people down, dividing the country and turning out bases. And that’s the kind of politics that has us in this mess… the president should not be out there trying to pit one group of Americans against another.”