A Republican candidate for US Congress in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District set a new low for demonizing the opposition party, by breathlessly asserting that Democrats are responsible for 99 percent of the mass shootings in this country. Gary Kiehne, who is seeking the GOP nomination to unseat Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick made the outlandish comments in a recent Republican party debate. On the topic of mass shootings, Kiehne remarked:
If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people. So I don’t think you have a problem with the Republicans.
While Kiehne’s comments are beyond absurd, they are increasingly typical for Tea Party Republicans who believe in an alternate reality where nearly every violent crime or act of evil is perpetrated by Democrats, liberals, or progressives. In this new popular mythology on the American Right, the Nazis are left-wing, the KKK was created by “liberal Democrats” and almost every mass shooter in America is also, of course, a Democrat.
Apparently Kiehne is one of those Congressional candidates who is incapable of basic fact checking, but instead gets all of his information from mass e-mails circulated by fellow right-wingers with sensationalized, unfounded claims that blame liberal Democrats for every malady in America.
The “mass shooters are Democrats” meme is popular on the Internet, but although widely circulated, the claims are invariably provided without a source, because to put it bluntly, they are patently false. The original claim was made by right-wing radio host Roger Hedgecock, who proclaimed, without evidence or sources, that the five worst mass shootings in U.S. History were committed by “registered Democrats”. The shooters he referenced to make his false claim were Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan, VA Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho, Aurora Theater shooter James Holmes, Sandy Hook mass killer Adam Lanza, and Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and EricHarris. Some versions of the meme incorporate more recent mass shooters or add Jared Loughner, the deranged killer who shot Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a Tucson-area meet and greet.
Of course, not a single one of the shooters mentioned has any demonstrated connection to the Democratic Party. Seung-Hui Cho was a resident alien, and therefore was not even registered to vote. Nidal Hassan was a legal resident of Virginia living in Texas. Neither state has partisan voter registration, so while it is impossible to determine how he voted if he voted, we do know that he could not register as a Democrat in either the state of Texas or Virginia. Klebold and Harris where too young to vote and while some arguments acknowledge that by arguing instead that their parents were Democrats, that claim is also unsubstantiated. The claim that Adam Lanza was a Democrat is also unsubstantiated.
The false allegation that James Holmes was a registered Democrat was based on Breitbart blogger Joel B. Pollack, who found voter registration records for a different James Holmes who was around the same age. Alex Jones’ Infowars and other right-wing websites then dutifully repeated the lie without verifying it. It was later determined that the Colorado Theater Shooter James Holmes was not registered to vote, and Breitbart. com offered this retraction:
Newly-released information on the suspect’s birthdate (which, as indicated in our initial report, was a slight mismatch), combined with new details Breitbart News has obtained about the suspect’s likely addresses, together suggest that the suspect may, in fact, not have been registered to vote.
Of course, very few conservatives ever read the retraction.
The point Kiehne seems to miss is that most mass shootings are not committed by political partisans of either major political party. Mass killings are rarely partisan political acts although the shooters may have strong ideological motives that may include political ideas. Occasionally, the shooter may even work on political campaigns like xenophobic former Republican campaign volunteer, Dannie Baker who shot five Chilean immigrants in 2009.
However, even if a few mass shooters worked on political campaigns, it would still be absurd to assign their crimes to their respective political parties, since neither the Democrats nor the Republicans include mass shooting in their party platforms. Kiehne’s cheap attempt to smear Democrats as mass killers simply undermines his credibility as a congressional candidate. While reasonable people can disagree on which gun regulations are appropriate and which are unacceptable, claiming that almost all mass shootings are committed by Democrats is simply a blatant lie. Any politician arguing such unsubstantiated nonsense, should be considered unfit to vote into office.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.