Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky expressed concern Tuesday about the recent escalation in charged political rhetoric, suggesting that the lack of civility in public discourse might lead to violence.
Paul, who was among the Republican lawmakers at a practice for the annual congressional baseball game when a leftist shooter opened fire last year, told a Kentucky radio station that the heated partisan battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court placed lawmakers at even greater risk of a violent, politically motivated attack.
“I really worry that someone is going to be killed and that those who are ratcheting up the conversation . . . they have to realize that they bear some responsibility if this elevates to violence,” Paul said, before recounting his experience watching his Republican colleague, House majority whip Steve Scalise, cling to life after being shot during the baseball practice at a Washington, D.C. park.
“These are people that are unstable. We don’t want to encourage them,” he said. “We have to somehow ratchet it down and say we’re not encouraging them that violence is ever OK.”
The Kentucky lawmaker was asked specifically about Senator Cory Booker’s (D., N.J.) urging Americans to “get up in the face of some congresspeople and tell them about common sense solutions,” and took Booker to task.
“I think what people need to realize, that when people like Cory Booker say, ‘Get up in their face,’ he may think that that’s OK,” Paul said. “But what he doesn’t realize is that for about every 1,000th person that might want to get up in your face, one of them is going to be unstable enough to commit violence.”
Paul’s wife blamed Booker for inciting violence in an op-ed written in response to his comments. Booker responded in an op-ed of his own, in which he argued his comments were being misinterpreted.
Hillary Clinton dismissed concerns about the rise of hostile rhetoric during a Monday interview with CNN.
“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.”