As details continue to emerge about Robert Lewis Dear, the shooter who muttered “no more baby parts” to police as they escorted him from the Planned Parenthood in Colorado where he murdered three people and injured nine others, Republican candidates and anti-choice activists are desperate to reframe this act of domestic terrorism as an isolated act by a “crazed” lone gunman. They’re also taking the opportunity to demonize not just abortion providers but “transgendered” people, “leftists” and the mentally ill. Here’s a roundup of what some in the GOP presidential field are saying about the tragedy in Colorado.
Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner at the moment, called Deal a “maniac” and called the shooting an isolated act by someone who was “mentally disturbed.” This dismissive rhetoric was echoed, chillingly, by the top Republican and the top Democrat on the House homeland security committee, who suggested the government should crack down on the mentally ill by making sure people with mental health problems can’t get guns, rather than acknowledging terrorism as terrorism.
Ben Carson, Trump’s closest competitor, made the outrageous claim that “both sides should tone down their rhetoric” in the abortion debate, a textbook example of false equivalence. The only side that needs to “tone down” its rhetoric is the one calling the other side murderers and babykillers, distributing home addresses of abortion providers, spreading lies about Planned Parenthood, and daring to act surprised when their violent rhetoric spurs actual violence.
Mike Huckabee, who to his (very minor) credit is the only GOP candidate to use the term “domestic terrorism” to describe the shootings, ruined any goodwill that description might have earned him by going on to suggest that a legal medical procedure, abortion, is morally equivalent to walking into a Planned Parenthood clinic and opening fire.
“There is no excuse for killing other people whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” Huckabee said.
Should have stopped after those first eight words, Huck.
Carly Fiorina, who first invited outrage by falsely claiming she saw a (nonexistent) video of a fetus kicking on a tray while doctors discussed keeping it alive to harvest its brain, preemptively trashed grieving pro-choice advocates for “blaming the messenger” (in this case, the anti-choice activists who use violent rhetoric against abortion providers) “because they don’t agree with your message.” Translation: She’s mad at pro-choice advocates like NARAL for making the obvious link between violent rhetoric and actual violence. Tough.
Ted Cruz, meanwhile, bizarrely called Dear a “transgendered leftist activist” who acted alone. None of those words are true–Dear reportedly held conservative beliefs, was not “transgendered” (his gender was listed incorrectly on his voter registration), and was not a known activist. But anti-choicers never let the truth get in the way of a good demonization.
The activist base of the anti-choice movement has been similarly eager to dismiss the notion that the shooting was an act of terrorism, calling Dear, for example, a “random loner” who “never talked about abortion,” as Life News rather liberally misinterprets neighbors’ comments about the shooter. “The profile they paint is far from a caricature of a pro-life activist who has an issue with the Planned Parenthood abortion business and more of a loner or renegade who may have mental health issue and, at a minimum, is a bit ‘off,‘” they write. Life News also goes out of its way, still, to cast doubt on the notion that this attack was even aimed at Planned Parenthood in the first place, regardless of the motive, and to point out that authorities have not announced an official motive for the shooting.
The website Get Religion goes further, arguing that not only is there no known motive for the shooting, the real story is that the police officer who died on the scene did so “defending life,” a claim they base on the fact that the officer was a pastor at a church with conservative doctrine. That’s a pretty thin wire on which to hang a victim’s supposed anti-choice ideology, yet the same site categorically dismisses the idea that a shooting at an abortion clinic might be politically motivated.
Anti-choicers, somewhat predictably, were quick to play the victim card, alternately complaining that Planned Parenthood has asked supporters to support its mission during the latest wave of anti-choice attacks (Life News), urging opponents of choice to become more vocal “in the coming wave of D.C. media hate (Breitbart, which also declared the media “thrilled” by the murders) and whining that the media aren’t “covering” the fact that abortions happen, which they deem just as bad, if not worse, than political terrorism against actual, living human beings (via Right Wing Watch).