The same day that a gunman shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) during a Republican baseball practice, a GOP congresswoman from New York received an ominous email with the subject line, “One down, 216 to go…”
Gunman James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on the group of lawmakers and staffers gathering at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, early Wednesday morning while practicing for the bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, set for Thursday. Scalise was critically injured during the fray, and two Capitol Police officers and a congressional staffer were also injured.
During the tumultuous aftermath, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) received the threatening email, which appeared to reference the other 216 GOP House members who voted to pass the American Health Care Act in early May, in addition to Scalise.
“Did you NOT expect this? When you take away ordinary peoples [sic] very lives in order to pay off the wealthiest among us, your own lives are forfeit,” the email read, according to The Hill. “Certainly, your souls and morality were lost long before. Good riddance.”
Sadly, this type of email is no anomaly for GOP members of Congress in the current political climate.
Hannah Andrews, Tenney’s spokeswoman, said that her office receives a regular deluge of threats, although Wednesday’s email was “particularly disheartening following this morning’s tragic events.”
“The level of discourse in politics today is truly unfortunate,” Andrews said in a statement. “Our nation was founded on the principle of free speech, and it’s vitally important that we have a robust debate on the issues. However, protections under the first amendment do not extend to violence.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that it’s nothing new for members of Congress to receive death threats, although he believes “the amount of invective that I think a lot of members of Congress have seen is much different than it has been” since President Donald Trump took office.
“I mean, I have had people, you know, want me dead, want my wife dead. Even my six-and-a-half-month-old daughter — people call into the office or write an anonymous letter saying that they would like her to die,” DeSantis said. “So that is just not healthy. And whether there’s a connection to here or not, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
A congressional staffer for a GOP House member confirmed to LifeZette that their office constantly receives death threats at a pace that has increased since the 2016 presidential election. She said that “we even have a picture of a guy in our office” who has called before “to say he’s in town” and left threatening messages.
“And we’re sitting here disarmed,” the staffer said, noting that the baseball field “would have been a bloodbath” if Scalise hadn’t been there, since only Party leaders receive a security detail.
The staffer believes the volume of hate mail has increased because the Congress member has been “outspoken against the Left.”
“Because the more visibility you have, the more the whacks come out of the woodwork,” the staffer said. “They keep ratcheting it up, and these impressionable people out there like [Hodgkinson] … are affected by this stuff, this rhetoric.”
Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) has also spoken publicly about the death threats she has received since Trump’s election, including the May 2 voicemail the since-arrested Tucson Unified School District employee Steve Martan left, in which he said she should “be careful” upon her return to Tucson because her days “were numbered.” He also reportedly treated to shoot McSally because of her support for Trump’s agenda, according to tucson.com.