By Sunday morning, only half of the remaining 14 Republican presidential candidates had reacted publicly to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs Friday, underscoring the delicate line between tragedy and controversial social issues that’s seemingly caused their campaigns to tread lightly.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee denounced the shooting, calling it “domestic terrorism,” while also maintaining his unfavorable position on the organization.
“It was mass murder,” he said. “It was absolutely unfathomable, and there’s no excuse for killing other people whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parent headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood.”
Similarly, former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina said that the attack was a tragedy in an interview that aired on Fox News Sunday.
“Nothing justifies this,” she said. ”Any protesters should always be peaceful, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or pro-life protesters.”
Before Sunday, Huckabee and Fiorina had not commented publicly on the shooting. Only three GOP candidates made statements following the attack.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the first Republican candidate to say something about the shooting, tweeting his condolences for the victims Saturday morning. His tweet did not mention Planned Parenthood.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also tweeted Saturday, but he did not mention the organization either.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement, “There is no acceptable explanation for this violence, and I will continue to pray for those who have been impacted.”
In contrast, the three democratic candidates tweeted reactions using the hashtag “#StandWithPP.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also tweeted, “I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences.”
Planned Parenthood has made a similar statement, saying the rhetoric used by pro-life supporters could have contributed to this attack.
“We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains. “That environment breeds acts of violence. Americans reject the hatred and vitriol that fueled this tragedy.”
The shooter reportedly said “no more baby parts” after he was arrested, which could be a reference to the highly edited videos that an anti-abortion group used to claim that the organization was selling tissue from aborted fetuses.
Huckabee, however, said he doesn’t know any pro-life individuals or organizations who have suggested the use of violence toward Planned Parenthood.
“I know of nobody who has ever suggested that Planned Parenthood be the target of some type of violent attack, so I think that’s a little bit disingenuous on the part of Planned Parenthood to blame people who have a strong philosophical disagreement with the dismembering of human babies,” he said Sunday.
Fiorina agreed that the language of pro-life activists like herself was not the reason for the shooting.
“What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics,” she said.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump blamed mental illness for the shooter’s actions, even though there have been no reports of the shooter having any mental health issues in the past. Trump also said he does recognize there are many who dislike Planned Parenthood.
“I see a lot of anxiety and I see a lot of dislike for Planned Parenthood,” Trump said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There’s no question about that.”
Also appearing on “Meet the Press” Sunday, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson said we need to stop hateful rhetoric of all kinds, but did not speak specifically about Planned Parenthood.
“We have to stop allowing ourselves to be pushed into different corners and then throwing hateful barbs at each other,” Carson said.