Leaked Memo Reveals GOP Strategy On Mass Shootings: Blame The Left, Downplay White Supremacists
A leaked memo obtained by the Tampa Bay Times ad sent by Congressional Republicans reveals talking points on gun violence that downplays the threat of white supremacists and falsely “blame the left” for El Paso mass shooting.
The document provides a framework for how to respond to anticipated questions like, “Why won’t you pass legislation to close the ‘gun show loophole’ in federal law?” and “Why shouldn’t we ban high-capacity magazines?” The answers are boilerplate Republican arguments against tougher gun restrictions.
But it also included this question: “Do you believe white nationalism is driving more mass shootings recently?” The suggested response is to steer the conversation away from white nationalism to an argument that implies both sides are to blame.
“White nationalism and racism are pure evil and cannot be tolerated in any form,” the document said. “We also can’t excuse violence from the left such as the El Paso shooter, the recent Colorado shooters, the Congressional baseball shooter, Congresswoman Giffords’ shooter and Antifa.”
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, included the talking points in a newsletter that he emailed this week to his Florida constituents. His spokeswoman Summer Robertson said they were “provided by the House Republican Conference,” the caucus arm in charge of devising messaging strategy for its members. The conference’s internal strategies are not usually made public.
Robertson said that the inclusion of El Paso was a mistake. It was supposed to say Dayton, the site of a second mass shooting 13 hours later where nine people died.
The El Paso shooter, a self-described Trump supporter, is alleged to have intentionally targeted Mexicans when he killed 22 people at a Walmart on the Texas-Mexico border on Aug. 3. In a manifesto published just before the attack he expressed white nationalist and anti-immigrant beliefs, using language that echoed President Donald Trump’s characterizations of illegal immigration.
The GOP conference talking points ascribed other shootings as leftist violence despite contradictory, evidence.
Republicans have faced mounting pressure from Democrats, victims of gun violence and cities shaken by these tragedies who are demanding Congress take action. The GOP’s response to elevate incidents of “violence on the left” contradicts the well-documented rise in hate crimes and white nationalism on the far-right.
Extremist-related murders have spiked in the last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, and the vast majority — 83 percent — are committed by right-wing extremists and white supremacists. Not a single extremist-related murder in the United States last year was carried out by “the left.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told Congress “a majority of the domestic terrorism cases we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”
House Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.