The mainstream media and its obsession with Russia helped incite a man to open fire on a group of Republican Congressmen and their aides.
That was the message from the pro-Trump media, which reacted almost in unison to the tragic shooting at a Virginia baseball practice on Wednesday—a crime perpetrated by a self-identified Bernie Sanders fan.
In tweets, periscopes, and articles, Trump’s allies argued that the left was getting more violent and that the mainstream media’s coverage of an ongoing investigation into alleged contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, may have helped compel this particular individual to act.
For them, the Russia investigation dwells largely in the land of conspiracy—something that, as the president has suggested in the past, is fake news. And the seemingly incessant coverage of it, on liberal television bastions like MSNBC, have inspired a kind of hysteria among Democrats where this kind of violence is possible.
“Make no mistake, the media and the Left and anyone promoting TrumpRussia has blood on their hands today #Alexandria,” Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump writer who recently left the Canadian media organization The Rebel, said on Twitter.
In a Periscope broadcast initially pinned to his account, Posobiec went on to say that the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson “was a firm believer in the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory. He was a huge fan of John Oliver, a huge fan of MSNBC, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher.”
Hodgkinson was named as the shooter shortly after he shot at and injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, two Capitol Police officers and congressional staffers at a baseball practice on Wednesday morning. Details poured in on his troubled past throughout the day including a history of violence and domestic abuse, but the first known information was gleaned from his Facebook page where Hodgkinson made clear that he hated Trump and the Republican Party in general.
“Republicans are Racist and Sexist!” he wrote in 2014 linking to an article about Scalise. “Trump is a Traitor,” Hodgkinson wrote in a May 22 Facebook post which included a link to a Change.org petition to remove Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for treason. “Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co,” he added.
Hodgkinson died from gunshots wounds by Capitol Police returning fire at the baseball field.
This question of treason, which hinges directly on the unverified contention that Trump conspired with the Russians to get himself elected, is what many in the pro-Trump universe took issue with. And they said that the mainstream media’s coverage of the ongoing questions in the investigation helped stir the pot.
In a Facebook Live video posted earlier today, Mike Cernovich, who recently got a hosting gig at InfoWars, claimed that “Fake news media is inciting violence in #Alexandria.”
Cernovich hammered this point home in a separate Periscope saying that “the fake news media finally got what it wanted.”
“They’re getting their mass murderers, they’re getting their mass shooters,” Cernovich went on. “Antifa [anti-fascists] and left-wing domestic terrorism is actually a greater threat to me right now than radical Islam.”
He contended that the media had not done an adequate job of disavowing violence from left-leaning groups which provided an opening for attacks like this to occur.
Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser to the president, who has also dismissed the Russia investigation as nonsense, took a similar tack.
“This is the climate of hate generated by the MSM and egged on by LibDems hath wrought,” he tweeted with a link to a story about Hodgkinson.
(Stone did not respond to a request for further comment from The Daily Beast.)
Stone’s line was echoed by the conspiracy site InfoWars: The left poses a violent threat in this heated political environment. That made Wednesday’s shooting an event long time coming.
“We have been warning for months that the mainstream media’s hysterical anti-Trump narrative and the left’s insistence that Trump is illegitimate will radicalize demented social justice warriors and prompt them to lash out with violence,” wrote InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson.
“It looks like that’s exactly what happened today. The blood is on their hands.”
A subsequent InfoWars broadcast featuring Alex Jones included a banner image with the words “Second American Civil War,” seeming to stoke the conflict.
Jones, set to be interviewed by NBC anchor Megyn Kelly on Sunday, tweeted from his personal account that “The #VAshooting is a leftist terror attack by bullying scum who want to stop Trump’s #MAGA agenda! #virginiashooting”
For many of these pro-Trump outlets, Hodgkinson’s senseless act was a culmination of mainstream media stoking resentment combined with recent violent depictions of the president’s death; one in which Kathy Griffin held up a bloodied fake Trump head and more recently the New York City production of Julius Caesar with a Trump lookalike.
After the shooting took place today, Breitbart, a conservative site formerly led by White House adviser Steve Bannon, published a piece documenting 15 times that “Celebrities Envisioned Violence Against Trump and the GOP.”
Even one of Trump’s sons, Donald Jr., seemed to agree with this argument in a tweet reacting to the events of the day.
Yet, in a divergence from past events, President Trump himself struck a different tone that was neither caustic or partisan.
“We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because above all they love our country,” Trump said from the White House. “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together towards a common good.”
Similarly, Sanders, a harsh critic of Trump himself, seemed genuinely horrified at the day’s occurrences—especially upon learning that Hodgkinson once volunteered for his campaign.
“I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said from the Senate floor this morning. “Let me be as clear as I can. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values. My hopes and prayers are that Representative Scalise, congressional staff, and the Capitol Police officers who were wounded make a quick and full recovery. I also want to thank the Capitol Police for their heroic actions to prevent further harm.”
But still, the damage was done, and for those who characterize stories involving Trump and Russia as conspiracies, Hodgkinson’s political beliefs provided evidence of the possibility of radicalization.
“It’s clear from Hodgkinson’s FB [Facebook] [Facebook] posts he was radicalized by Trump-Russia conspiracy theories,” Posobiec said in a private message to The Daily Beast.