Friday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado that left three people dead prompted immediate responses from the Democratic presidential candidates, who offered condolences and reiterated their support for the organization.
GOP candidates were slower on the draw, presumably needing time to work out the delicate balance between smearing Planned Parenthood as baby killers while expressing sympathy for the Iraq vet and the mother of two who were gunned down.
When the GOP candidates finally commented, it was about as tasteless as you'd expect. They victim-blamed, claimed the killer's motives were unknown (despite reports that he spoke about "baby parts" at the scene), and found a way to heap blame upon both Planned Parenthood and the media. Here are some of their tone-deaf responses.
1. Carly Fiorina
On Fox News Sunday, Carly Fiorina called alleged killer Robert Lewis Dear "deranged' and lamented that the shooting took place on a "holiday weekend," before zeroing in on the real tragedy: the unfair treatment of Carly Fiorina by pro-choice activists and the left.
Host Chris Wallace asked Fiorina if she saw a link between overheated anti-choice rhetoric and violence by abortion opponents. Fiorina, who at the second GOP debate regaled viewers with a grisly and entirely false story about Planned Parenthood workers yanking the brain out of a "living, kicking" fetus, failed to see how her words might inspire someone to take drastic action.
“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message,” Fiorina told Wallace. “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.”
Fiorina advanced the inflammatory lie that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from trafficking in fetal body parts. In fact, the fetal tissue is turned over for medical research, with the attendant fees used to cover expenses.
2. Ted Cruz
Despite reports that the shooter ranted about "baby parts" at the scene, not to mention his choice of a Planned Parenthood clinic to storm, Ted Cruz saw no reason for anyone to jump to the crazy conclusion that the killer was motivated by anti-choice rhetoric. Instead, Cruz floated his more plausible explanation, telling reporters Sunday that Dear was a "transgendered leftist activist."
"It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist," said Cruz, according to the Texas Tribune. "If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”
The bizarre claim that Dear is transgender rocketed around the right-wing blogosphere after Gateway Pundit allegedly found a voter registration form that marked Dear as female. As Think Progress reports, there is absolutely no evidence Dear identified as a woman, or as a leftist, noting that the form most likely had a typographical error.
3. Ben Carson
Carson responded to the attack by wishing everyone would be a little more polite. He then politely blamed Planned Parenthood for the shooting.
Asked if extremist rhetoric emboldens domestic terrorists, Carson argued that "both sides" are to blame for vilifying each other.
"We get into our separate corners and we hate each other, we want to destroy those with whom we disagree," he told Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week." "It comes from both sides. So, you know, there is, there is no saint here in this, in this equation."
Fair point for the next time a pro-choice activist storms an anti-choice rally and murders three people.
4. Donald Trump
Donald Trump briefly approximated humanness on Chuck Todd's Meet the Press Sunday, calling the shooting "a terrible thing." Seconds later the GOP candidate returned to form, denouncing Planned Parenthood and essentially blaming the organization for making Trump supporters angry.
"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 ... there are a lot of people that are very unhappy about that," Trump said. "I can say that, because I go to rallies…I see a lot of anxiety and I see a lot of dislike for Planned Parenthood. There's no question about that."
Mike Huckabee had the guts to call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism and mass murder. "There's no legitimizing, there's no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable," he said.
Huckabee then accused Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to low-income women, of mass murder, engaging in exactly the kind of extreme rhetoric that might convince an unhinged person the group is deserving of violent attack. "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," he said.