Mo Brooks uses Steve Scalise shooting at Virginia baseball practice in campaign ad

Facing a tough GOP primary, Mo Brooks uses the shooting of his colleague to paint himself a Second Amendment hero

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published July 24, 2017 2:55PM (EDT)

Mo Brooks (Youtube/Mo Brooks for Senate)
Mo Brooks (Youtube/Mo Brooks for Senate)

What’s a Republican candidate in deep red Alabama to do when his Republican opponent already has the endorsement of the NRA? Invoke the shooting of a fellow GOP congressman at a Virginia baseball field as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate.

The Republican primary race to replace former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s “beleaguered” attorney general, is already heating up to be one of the wildest right-wing fights since the rise of the Tea Party. In a state where radical right-wing Judge Roy Moore, infamous for refusing to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, is currently leading his top competitors, both of whom currently serve in Congress, the potential for calamitous intra-party warfare became clear on Monday.

"June 14: A Bernie Sanders supporter fires on Republican congressmen. Mo Brooks gives his belt as a tourniquet to help the wounded,"  the text on the screen of a new campaign ad from the House Republican reads. Using audio from the June shooting at a Republican baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, Brooks’ ad opens with the sound of five gunshots along with audio of his response to the shooting at last month's practice for GOP lawmakers before the annual Congressional Baseball Game.  

"The Second Amendment, the right to bare arms, is to help ensure that we always have a republic. So no, I'm not changing my positions on any of the rights that we enjoy as Americans," Brooks says in the ad.

"Mo Brooks has stood up to the liberal media and the activist left when it truly counted. His principles never waiver," a description follows. "He is the kind of conservative we deserve standing up for our rights in the US Senate."

Five people were wounded during the shooting, including U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. A spokesman for Scalise said of Brooks’ ad, "some people have different ideas about what's appropriate."

Brooks himself appeared to hold a different idea of what’s appropriate only weeks ago. In an interview earlier this month, Brooks claimed that attention from the shooting gives him "mixed emotions." 

As the Hill reported, Brooks also told an Alabama radio station, “I never bring up that event.”

"If you noticed my speeches at these public events, I never bring up that event. If I’m asked about it — as you know, when I’m asked about most anything — I will respond to the question. But I don’t bring it up."

Judge Roy Moore currently leads both Brooks and Luther Strange, appointed to fill Sessions’ seat after his confirmation, ahead of next month's Aug. 15 primary. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the first and second place finishers will square off in a Sept. 28 runoff. 

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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