Appearing on “Morning Joe” Thursday, Rep. Mark Sanford said Donald Trump’s violent rhetoric is partially to blame for Wednesday’s shooting of two GOP congressmen, several police officers, and a legislative aid, and the anger he’s encountered during public meetings with constituents.
The Republican lawmaker told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that Trump has “unleashed” the demons responsible for the recent spike in violence in America.
“I would argue that the president is at least in partially — not totally, but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed, whether it’s what I saw at a senior center back home and people saying, ‘F-you, f-you and f-you,’ at a retirement center where they’ll see each other playing croquet the next day,” said Sanford, a longtime Trump critic. “The fact you have the top guy saying, I wish I can hit you in the face — why don’t you, and I’ll pay your legal fees.’”
“That’s bizarre — we ought to call it as such,” Sanford added. “What I’ve said back home, some of these people have been frankly weird and different in a town hall meeting, I say what is going on? They’ll say look, if the guy at the top can say anything to anybody at any time, why can’t I?”
Brzezinski blasted Trump for promising to pay legal fees for supporters who physically assaulted protesters at his campaign rallies, and Scarborough said that came after years of toxic political rhetoric.
“That is the conclusion of a 30-year ramp-up, that’s not the beginning of something,” he said. “That’s the conclusion of it, and we have to understand that when we step back from the precipice, and as Paul Ryan said and Nancy Pelosi concurred, we are one family. That is something that members of Congress, the Senate and House, need to say every day. That’s something that people on cable news at night need to start saying every day. That’s what people on talk radio need to be saying every day, and those conspiracy theorists that are preaching hate need to be shunned.”
Scarborough said Wednesday’s shooting was the result of a “systematic problem” that has been developing for at least 30 years, and he said it would remain after Trump leaves office.
He also blamed the increasingly polarized political situation on gerrymandering — which seals lawmakers and their constituents into bubbles — and purveyors of “fake news” on social media.
Brzezinski counted President Donald Trump himself among those social media crackpots.
“I think, very carefully, we have to talk about the added dynamic here because you have the right and left, the extremes on the right and the left,” she said. “You have fake news, you have conspiracy theorists who are really muddying the waters, and we have become desensitized.”
“We also have a president who pushes fake news and conspiracy theories, from birtherism to promoting violence on the campaign trail — this is the new dynamic here,” Brzezinski added. “I’m not putting anything squarely on the president, but I have to say that this is the new added dynamic to what is a very dangerous climate.”
Watch the interview below: