GOP Rep. Jones: 'Resentment and Hatred' in Political Climate 'Started with President Obama Being African-American'

WASHINGTON – Reacting to the shooting of House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said it would be “good” if both parties could agree on ways to restrict access to guns for “deranged people” from “all over the country and all over the political spectrum.”

The man who shot Scalise in Alexandria, Va., while GOP members of Congress were practicing for the annual charity baseball game was identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) presidential campaign volunteer who frequently posted anti-Trump material on Facebook.

Hodgkinson fired at least 60 rounds before being shot by Capitol Police. In addition to Scalise, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika, congressional aide Zachary Barth, and officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey were wounded.

Scalise has Capitol Police protection as a member of the House leadership. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who was at the scene of the attack, said everyone there probably would have been shot if Capitol Police were not present.

“It’s a terrible thing and I think we are all praying that everyone recovers, and there are people that aren’t well balanced all over the country and all over the political spectrum. We need to be concerned that those people will do things that are completely unhinged,” Lofgren told PJM on Capitol Hill. “It’s unlikely we will overcome our differences on access to guns for deranged people, but it would be good if we could.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said it is “too early” to discuss changes to gun laws.

“It’s obviously a tough day anytime a colleague comes under fire. It’s unexpected, but it’s certainly one of those things where what we’ve got to do is make sure America is a safe place. But it’s not going to undermine our democracy. It’s not going to get us to shy away from speaking the truth. I’m glad [Scalise’s] recovery is going well. Hopefully we’ll be able to see brighter days ahead,” Meadows told PJM. “I think it’s way too early to start talking policy.”

The rendition of “Julius Caesar” in New York City that depicts Donald Trump's assassination in the title role has been met with criticism and the theater behind the production recently lost some advertisers. The group, Public Theater, still receives taxpayer funding from NYC.

Comedian Kathy Griffin’s decision to pose for photos with a severed head resembling Trump was widely condemned by elected officials in both parties. She recently apologized for doing the photo shoot. Meadows was asked if those events have contributed to normalizing violent behavior toward political figures.

“I don’t know. It’s really easy to start pointing fingers at different people. I think, you know, obviously it appears this is a mental health issue. It’s too early to start pointing fingers and it’s certainly way too early to start talking policy,” Meadows replied.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) was asked the same question about Griffin’s photos and the “Julius Caesar” play’s graphic scene with an actor who resembles Trump.

“I think, truthfully, the world we all live in now, is a world of anxiety and distrust, whether it be a Republican or Democrat or it might be an independent, but too many times the distrust becomes hatred and resentment and I think that’s a lot of this problem, to be honest with you,” Jones responded.

The congressman said he thinks the current political climate “all started with President Obama being an African-American.”

“I just think that was the beginning, and now with the current occupant of the White House, I just hope that maybe he will see this as an opportunity to change some of his tactics, meaning what he tweets out and what he says. I hope that we can change the tone around here, but I don’t know if we can or not,” he added.

Jones hopes the public and elected officials can “change” the current environment when it comes to political beliefs.

“This was one man and thank God he wounded but didn’t kill anybody, thank God for that, most sincerely, but this environment that we’re in as a country, not just Congress, we need to change the environment if we can. There’s too much resentment and hatred out there, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” Jones said.

Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) agreed with Jones’ assessment of the incident.

“Stop demeaning everybody who disagrees with you on policy matters. Civil discourse in this country, if not down the drain, is swirling,” Heck told PJM. “I’ve only got control over myself so here are the two things that I commit to and I ask to be held accountable for: No. 1, don’t demonize people with whom I disagree, and No. 2, never stop looking for an area where we can work together.”