Those accusing the GOP of supporting racism in the wake of the Buffalo mass shooting are “trying to promote their own political agenda,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has said.
Scalise was joined by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in flatly rejecting accusations by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and Democrats who alleged the GOP supports “white nationalism,” The Hill reported.
“We’ve been very vocal against white nationalism,” Scalise told reporters on Monday.
Ten people were killed, while three others were wounded when suspected gunman 18-year-old Payton Gendron went on a shooting rampage in a Tops Friendly Market on Saturday. Eleven of the people shot were black.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the crime, which Gendron live-streamed, was racially motivated and will be prosecuted as a hate crime.
McCarthy said the GOP has never supported white supremacy and described the shooting in New York State’s second-largest city as “horrific.”
“I think everybody should be there to be uplifting the community. The suspect is the very worst of humanity,” McCarthy said.
“For political individuals to try to make some political game out of this shows how little they are from that aspect,” he said.
Scalise, who was shot by who he described as a leftist gunman in 2017 at a congressional baseball game practice, said it was a time to pray for the victims, not use the tragedy to score political points.
“This is a time when you need to be praying for the victims and ratcheting down the rhetoric and not trying to blame other people than the people directly responsible for the shooting,” Scalise said. “I’ve seen that firsthand. And this is a time when we need healing, not people trying to promote their own political agenda.”
However, Cheney, who was stripped of the support of the GOP for her role on the controversial House Jan. 6 Committee, accused the House party leadership of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism.”
“History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. [GOP] leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them,” she wrote on Twitter.
McCarthy hit back at these comments, The Hill reported, telling reporters that Cheney was doing was she “always does, just trying to play a political game when she knows something’s not true.”
Meanwhile, New York gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), and others, have called for a return of the death penalty in response to the attack.
On the other hand, incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for greater social media scrutiny, claiming it is a breeding ground for racism.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will visit Buffalo on Friday to meet with families of the victims, first responders, and community leaders, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on May 16.
“They will comfort the families of the 10 people whose lives were senselessly taken in this horrific shooting,” Jean-Pierre said.
“And they will express gratitude for the bravery of members of law enforcement and other first responders who took immediate action to try to protect and save lives,” she said.