Here’s How the 2016 Presidential Candidates Reacted to the Shooting at Planned Parenthood

Republican presidential candidates dismissed any connection between the anti-choice movement's coordinated smear campaign against Planned Parenthood and the shooting that killed three people on Friday.

Republican presidential candidates dismissed any connection between the anti-choice movement's coordinated smear campaign against Planned Parenthood and the shooting that killed three people on Friday. CARLY for America / YouTube

Those in the 2016 presidential candidate field responded to news of the Friday shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three dead and nine injured with mixed reactions, ranging from condemnation of the rampage to dismissal of how rhetoric may have enabled the violence.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, during an interview on Fox News Sunday, rejected any connection between the videos released by a discredited anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and the shooting, instead blaming the left wing for inserting the group into the conversation about the violence. Although she started by asserting that “it’s obviously a tragedy,” when asked by host Chris Wallace about pro-choice advocates linking the attack to extreme narratives against the health-care provider, Fiorina denied any connection and exploited the opportunity to again push debunked talking points about CMP.

“Well first it is not alleged, Planned Parenthood acknowledged several weeks ago that they would no longer take compensation for body parts, which sounds like an admission,” Fiorina said. “What I would say to 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.”

But as has been made clear, collecting, donating, and accepting reimbursement for the costs of transferring fetal tissue from clinics to labs is completely legal; realizing profits from such donations is not. Numerous investigations into Planned Parenthood’s tissue donation programs have turned up no wrongdoing. Planned Parenthood representatives have said the decision to forgo reimbursement altogether is intended to counter the strategy of anti-choice groups and GOP lawmakers attacking Planned Parenthood’s funding.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday labeled the attack “domestic terrorism,” but nonetheless held steadfastly to his anti-choice rhetoric when discussing the shooting on CNN’s State of the Union.

“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable, especially to 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 on something like this,” Huckabee said. “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.”

Donald Trump labeled the gunman an “extremist” during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. The business mogul quickly turned the conversation to CMP’s heavily edited videos, attempting to revive criticism over Planned Parenthood. “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,” Trump said. “I mean, there are a lot of people that are very unhappy about that.”

When asked by host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week whether he agrees that “extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” Republican candidate Ben Carson claimed the rhetoric was coming “from both sides” and that “there is no saint here in this.”  

“I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion,” Carson said. “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.”

Although Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) initially tweeted that he was “Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs,” the candidate later commented on the shooting by denying any connection it may have to the anti-choice movement.

Cruz, speaking with reporters during a Newton, Iowa campaign stop, said there was “very little evidence” the shooting had anything to do with violent rhetoric against Planned Parenthood, going on to lament what he deemed “vicious rhetoric on the left, blaming those who are pro-life.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush condemned the Colorado attack in a statement, writing, “There is no acceptable explanation for this violence, and I will continue to pray for those who have been impacted,” according to Politico.

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted his condolences, writing that “Senseless violence has brought tragedy to Colorado Springs. I pray for the families in mourning and have hope our nation can heal.”

Speaking at the New Hampshire Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke out about the shooting, saying that “We should be supporting Planned Parenthood, not attacking it.”

“The shooting on Friday was at, as you know, a Planned Parenthood clinic, a place where lots of women get healthcare they need—breast exams, STD testing, contraception and, yes, safe and legal abortions,” said Clinton, according to the Hill. “In Congress and on the campaign trail, Republicans that claim they just hate big government are only too happy to have government step in when it comes to women’s bodies and health,” she added before calling for gun control laws that Republicans have continually rejected.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) briefly remarked on the shooting in Colorado, telling the audience at the same New Hampshire rally, “I am running for president because, in these difficult times, against vitriolic Republican rhetoric, we must protect a woman’s right to choose and we must defend Planned Parenthood,” before offering condolences to the families of those impacted by the violence.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley strongly condemned the shooting, labeling it an instance of “domestic terrorism” and saying that the United States “cannot treat these acts of terrible violence as isolated incidents,” CNN reported. Using the attack in order to discuss gun violence around the country, O’Malley said, “This most recent act of terrorism took place at a Planned Parenthood office. Others have taken place in classrooms, schools, in church basements.”

“We have to call them out for what they are; they are acts motivated by intolerance, racism, and hate,” he continued. “They are designed to prey upon the vulnerable and the unsuspecting. They are in fact acts of murder and acts of terror. And wherever it happens, it is an assault on all of us.”