GOP presidential candidates can't help but take pot shots while belatedly reacting to Planned Parenthood attack

Ted Cruz labels the attacker a "transgendered leftist activist," Carly Fiorina blasts "typical left-wing tactics"

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 30, 2015 3:41PM (EST)

  (Reuters/AP/Brian Snyder/Jim Cole/Rebecca Cook)
(Reuters/AP/Brian Snyder/Jim Cole/Rebecca Cook)

The Republican presidential candidates waited more than 20 hours before making a public peep on Friday's hours long terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And in true Republican fashion, once they did courageously condemn the shooting, they either lashed out at the "left," insisted the attacker was merely "deranged," continued their attacks on Planned Parenthood, or bizarrely claimed that the gunman was a "transgendered leftist activist."

For hours on Friday, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear Jr. terrorized a Planned Parenthood clinic before killing a 35-year-old married mother of two, a 29-year-old Iraq War veteran and father of two, a University of Colorado police officer and pastor, and wounding nine others in America's latest mass shooting terror attack -- the second within a month for the Colorado Springs area.

"It is offensive and outrageous that some politicians are now claiming this tragedy has nothing to do with the toxic environment they helped create," Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement released Sunday.

Ted Cruz 

Cruz who described the reproductive health clinic a “criminal enterprise,” guilty of “multiple felonies” during a GOP debate this fall, became the first Republican candidate to say anything in public about the attack when he tweeted his condolences on Saturday:

Cruz followed up on his tweet while speaking in Lamoni, Iowa, over the weekend, calling the attack "unacceptable, horrific and wrong."

“We know that police officers and civilians have been targeted and lost their lives and our prayers are right now are with the families,” Cruz said.

But Cruz, who has recently touted the endorsements of Reps. Louie Gohmert and Steve King in Iowa, didn't waste any time squandering the good will he may have earned as the first GOP candidate willing to condemn the attack when he lashed out at media reports that the gunman yelled "no more baby parts" during the attack as “vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life.”

“The media promptly wants to blame [Dear] on the pro-life movement, when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that,” Cruz told reporters on Sunday. “It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist, if that’s what he is,” Cruz bizarrely argued, repeating a report on a discredited right-wing website.

Carly Fiorina

When "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace introduced Fiorina during his show on Sunday, he noted that the former HP executive has "taken a hard line" against Planned Parenthood and described her as “one of the toughest critics." Although Fiorina made it clear that “nothing justifies this,” referring to Friday's terror attack, she described the gunman as a "protestor" and inexplicably linked him to the Black Lives Matter movement.

"[P]resumably, this man who appears deranged, if nothing else, will be tried for murder as he should be," Fiorina told Wallace. "But it’s a tragedy, especially on a holiday weekend."

"Any protesters should always be peaceful. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter or pro-life protesters.”

When Wallace asked Fiorina if she believed her false claims that Planned Parenthood harvested baby parts could have helped to motivate the attacker, the long-shot candidate defended her attacks on Planned Parenthood before blaming "typical left-wing tactics" for "demonizing the messenger."

“First, it is not alleged,” she said. “Planned Parenthood acknowledged several weeks ago they would no longer take compensation for body parts, which sounds like an admission they were doing so.”

"This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing a messenger because they don’t agree with the message," she continued. "The vast majority of Americans agree what Planned Parenthood is doing is wrong."

Donald Trump 

Trump, never one to tone down his rhetoric in the face of backlash, made no exception this weekend.

"Well, this was an extremist. And this was a man who they said prior to this was mentally disturbed,” Trump said on "Meet the Press."

"So, he's a mentally disturbed person. There's no question about that,” Trump insisted, before regurgitating the GOP's attacks on the reproductive health organization.

“I will tell you, there is a tremendous group of people that think it's terrible, all of the videos that they've seen with some of these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you're selling parts to a car,” he said. “Now, I know some of the tapes were perhaps not pertinent. I know that a couple of people that are running for office on the Republican side were commenting on tapes that weren’t appropriate. But there were many tapes that are appropriate in terms of commenting on. It looks like you’re talking about parts to some machine or something. And they’re not happy about it.”

Ben Carson

Ben Carson chimed in during his trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, describing the shootings as a “hate crime” during an interview on ABC's "This Week" without ever explicitly mentioning Planned Parenthood.

“Unfortunately, there's a lot of extremism coming from all areas. It's one of the biggest problems that I think is threatening to tear our country apart,” Carson said. “We get into our separate corners and we hate each other, we want to destroy those with whom we disagree.”

“If we can get rid of the rhetoric from either side and actually talk about the facts, I think that's when we begin to make progress,” he said. “And, you know, a lot of people, when they don't have facts, when they don't have a good backup, that's when the rhetoric starts. That's when the name-calling starts.”

Mike Huckabee 

"Regardless of why he did it, what he did is domestic terrorism," Huckabee surprisingly proclaimed on CNN's "State of the Union."

"What he is did is absolutely abominable, especially to those of us in the pro-life movement, because there's nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way at something like this," Huckabee insisted before taking a pot shot at Secretary of State John Kerry and continuing his usual attacks against Planned Parenthood.

“We’re not going to have the kind of language that you heard from John Kerry where he talked about legitimizing or rationalizing terrorist actions,” Huckabee told host Brianna Keilar. “There’s no legitimizing, there’s no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable. And there’s 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.”

Jeb Bush 

Jeb!, who has complained that $500,000 spent federally for women's health is too much money, merely said on Saturday that “there is no acceptable explanation for this violence, and I will continue to pray for those who have been impacted,” in a statement.

On Monday morning, however, he boasted about his pro-gun record:

Marco Rubio 


Rubio remains one of the few GOP candidates to stay mum on the attack. He did, however, find time to tweet this back in July:

Chris Christie 


John Kasich

Ignored Planned Parenthood:

In contrast, on Friday night, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both tweeted that they "#StandWithPP," while Martin O'Malley followed suit on Saturday. President Obama also issued a statement on Saturday.

Was The Planned Parenthood Attack An Act Of Domestic Terrorism?

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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