Republican state legislators who held a day-long “trial” of Planned Parenthood three weeks ago have been largely silent about last Friday’s shooting, at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, that left three people dead and nine injured.
Other Republicans, albeit a small minority, have said there is no difference between the Planned Parenthood shooter and the organization.
This morning, the Douglas County GOP tweeted out the following: “Abortionists and Planned Parenthood Shooter Are Just Two Sides Of The Same Coin.”
Of the few public statements made by Colorado Republicans, most do not mention that the shooting took place at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Three weeks ago today, the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, an unofficial legislative body, held a day-long hearing on Planned Parenthood, which was referred to as a “trial” by several news outlets, including the Durango Herald. That hearing included an analysis of a video released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress, which accused Planned Parenthood of trafficking in aborted fetus body parts. The video, which has been widely discredited for selective editing, specifically identified as one of its sources the Planned Parenthood clinic where the attack took place.
Over the weekend, numerous media organizations reported accused shooter Robert Lewis Dear initially told investigators “no more baby parts,” an apparent reference to the video.
Only three of the 21 official members of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado has made any public statement of sympathy to the victims of the November 27 attack. Most lawmakers are not saying anything at all.
The Planned Parenthood clinic is located in the districts of Republicans Rep. Terri Carver and Sen. Kent Lambert, both members of the Republican Study Committee. Lambert has not issued a public statement and did not reply to a request for comment from The Colorado Independent.
Carver did issue a statement Saturday on her Facebook page, more than 24 hours after the gunman surrendered.
“I am saddened by yesterday’s senseless violence. Our community and the entire state grieve for those lives lost and for those injured. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have suffered this terrible loss and harm to their loved ones. Our community has a history of coming together and supporting those in need – and we will do so now as we help each other heal from this senseless act of violence.”
The statement was released after police said Planned Parenthood was the target, but Carver did not mention the clinic or that it was in her district. Carver was unavailable for comment.
Five days after the shooting, the Colorado Senate GOP has yet to issue an official statement on its website. A handful of postings on its Facebook and Twitter accounts have addressed the shooting and offered sympathy for the victims, but omitted where the attack happened.
On Monday, the Senate GOP wrote on its Facebook page that Democrats and “left-leaning media” would rush to blame Republicans for the attack but did not mention the Planned Parenthood clinic by name.
“By all accounts, the Black Friday gunman was a disturbed loner who represents no one but himself. But don’t expect Democrats or left-leaning media types to let a finger-pointing opportunity go to waste,” the post said.
Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada, who played a prominent role in the Nov. 9 hearing, posted a Guy Fawkes picture on her Facebook page two days after the attack that stated: “THE MIND OF A SLAVE ASKS IS IT LEGAL? THE MIND OF A FREE MAN ASKS IS IT RIGHT? ”
Fawkes was the 17th century English terrorist who attempted to blow up the House of Lords. The image was originally created by Alan Moore in his anti-government comic book V for Vendetta, which was later turned into a Hollywood blockbuster with a pro-violent-revolution undertone.
The Fawkes mask has been used as a mascot by the online hacker group Anonymous, which has protested the Ku Klux Klan, the Church of Scientology, and Paypal.
One person responded to Woods’ post, writing that she should not glorify terrorists by spreading their propaganda.
Woods did not respond to a call for comment.
Amy Runyon-Harms of ProgressNow Colorado said, “The lack of compassion shown around this tragedy in Colorado Springs shows so many of these folks to be what they are: political opportunists. It’s unconscionable to me that they spout out hateful rhetoric and the next day pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Colorado House Republicans have been quiet on the Planned Parenthood shooting. As of Tuesday morning, the most recent postings on the caucus’ website, Twitter and Facebook pages wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
The Colorado GOP did not issue its own statement, either on its website or on social media, but did share a statement made by Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who thanked law enforcement officers and first responders. Lamborn’s statement also did not mention Planned Parenthood. Similar sentiments, including the omission of Planned Parenthood, were expressed by Greeley Rep. Ken Buck on his Facebook page.
GOP Chair Steve House told The Independent that at the time of the statement, it was not clear that Planned Parenthood had been the target.
But “this kind of attack, no matter what kind of issue, is tragic and wrong. One individual — no matter his [political] allegiance, taking matters into his own hands, creating this kind of tragedy — is wrong 100 percent of the time. All of the victims deserve our sympathy.”
Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman, the only member of Colorado’s Republican congressional delegation to acknowledge where the shooting took place, was in Afghanistan on Friday and issued a statement of condolence for the victims. Coffman put Planned Parenthood logos on his 2014 campaign literature and cited praise from the organization, but has repeatedly voted to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood.
Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College and a Republican, told The Independent that mass shootings like last Friday’s are the most negative thing that can happen to lawmakers who are strong supporters of firearms and the Second Amendment.
“It’s perfectly understandable that those who support the Second Amendment would not want to comment at all,” and in particular at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
It puts Republicans in a difficult position, no matter who the target is, Loevy said. “Their best option is to remain silent.”
Conservatives have argued in other contexts that Democrats who don’t state their position on issues must be on the wrong side of history.
Last week, conservative pundit Jonathan Lockwood of Advancing Colorado blasted Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver for failing to disclose his position on how he would vote on screening processes for Syrian or Muslim refugees. In failing to announce his position, Lockwood said, Bennet has “helped advance the agenda of jihad.”
When politicians refuse to state their position, people have every right to be concerned, Lockwood said. As to the Planned Parenthood shooting, politicians have so politicized Planned Parenthood, “it makes it difficult for people to have a genuine, rational conversation.”
Nobody he knows in the anti-abortion community would condone what Dear did, Lockwood said, an act he described as a despicable and heinous act of violence, an act of terrorism that “shouldn’t be hard to denounce.”
Photo credit: Timothy Vollmer, Creative Commons, Flickr.