Will Scalise shooting prompt scrutiny of political rhetoric?

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. JEFF DUNCAN, R-S.C.: I know what he asked me. I know how I answered. I know what happened. So I am making the assumption that he was targeting Republicans.

REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN, R-TENN.: There was a barrage of gunfire, and it was chaotic, it was horrible.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: Without the Capitol Hill police, it would have been a massacre.

REP. JOE BARTON, R-TEXAS: They attacked the shooter and that saved our lives. And in doing so, they injured themselves. It was remarkable heroism.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Republican members of Congress describing a frightening scene this morning when it gunmen attacked them as they practice for tomorrow's bipartisan Congressional baseball game.

Time to bring in the panel: Steve Hilton, host of "The Next Revolution" here on Fox News Channel; Katie Pavlich from Townhall.com; Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at USA Today, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Susan, I am sure you have talked to a bunch of people today on Capitol Hill. How shaken are they? How hard has this hit them?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I think it has hit people pretty hard. And I think they are shaken both because of the sense of personal peril in that most members of Congress don't have security with them, but also, and maybe this will be short-lived, but I think there's also a sense of have we gone so far in the fierceness of our political debates and in things like social media postings that go over the line of civil discourse that we ought to try to step back? As I said, we've had that debate before. Is this the time when it has a more lasting effect than it's had?

WALLACE: I want to pick up on that a little bit later. But Katie, let me ask you, what have you been hearing from members and staff, just the resonance, the echo effect of this terrible event.

KATIE PAVLICH, TOWNHALL.COM: Clearly the theme of the day has been unity, and I think it's important to point out that Republicans were targeted because of who they are, because of what they believe in, because the ideas and policies that they have pushed forward. And unity doesn't mean that Republicans and Democrats have to agree. It simply means that they have to make better arguments about their policies rather than going to a lazy debate, quite frankly, about dehumanizing their opponents, talking to each other like their enemies and they can't come together on these issues. Democrats are now inviting Republicans over to the Democratic club to have dinner. I think they're reaching out across the aisle. But in terms on long term, unfortunately it seems that a lot of the members are pessimistic about whether this unity theme can continue.

WALLACE: Steve, I want to pick up on this, and to the degree that we can make sense of a senseless act, because we have learned a few things today about the shooter, James Hodgkinson. He was a volunteer for Bernie Sanders. That's mild. He was a member of a much rougher group called Terminate the Republican Party. And some conservatives today have been saying, well, this is kind of an extreme example of the growing anger on the left. To what degree do we ascribe rational political motives to this and to what degree do we just say it's the act of a deranged individual?

STEVE HILTON, FOX NEWS: I have to be honest. I think it is almost certain to be the case that it is the latter. I think that it's helpful that this terrible event is prompting this conversation about the nature of our political discourse. I think that's a good thing. I think that as you said earlier in the show, if something good comes out of it, that will be great. I am pessimistic about that too because we've heard it before.

But I think to actually link this to political motives is I think going too far. There are plenty of people who say extreme things, too many people who say extreme things on social media and elsewhere about policy, but they don't go out and shoot people. And this person clearly went out intending to shoot people. So I think in the end, the action itself is the product of a deranged mind, and we shouldn't read too much into that. But we should be having this conversation about the nature of our politics. We should be having it anyway, but if today prompts us to do it, that's a good thing.

WALLACE: Charles, how much reason should we ascribe to an unreasonable and senseless act?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Senseless I'm not sure is true here. This is a guy who went out not to shoot people. He went out to shoot Republicans. That was clear when he asked who these people were.

It's a combination. First of all, you've got a guy who is living out of a car since March. So you know this is a man who is somewhat unhinged. Who knows? His life is falling apart, though he seems to have had sort of a normal adulthood, or at least he didn't have any signs of psychosis.

Let me just contrast this the shooting of Gabby Giffords, which is the only analogous event.

WALLACE: The Arizona congresswoman.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. She was shot. Within minutes, within hours, there was a meme showed up in the major newspapers and elsewhere that this was a result of the climate of hate, of violence perpetrated by Sarah Palin and other extreme Republicans. And they highlighted her website where she was "targeting," quote-unquote, Democrat districts for winning in the next election and implying this was an invitation to shooting.

The guy who did this, a guy called Loughner, was clearly psychotic from the first moment. He had a history of it. People who knew him had complained about his wild behavior. There wasn't a political idea in his head. That was pure psychosis.

In this guy, you likely have a combination of somebody who is unhinged, falling apart, but clearly driven by a political purpose and one that, I would say, to echo the words that were used in the Giffords case, a climate of anti-Trump almost hysteria that has become the norm.

I think this will help to pull people back and to realize that the kind of language, to celebrate, for example, the "Julius Caesar" in Central Park in which the Julius Caesar is clearly Donald Trump as some kind of great cultural achievement I think is really appalling. And this is part of all that. I'm not accusing anybody of doing anything, but if you're going to have a standard on this, let's not have a double standard on this.

PAGE: It's not as though this guy represents the extremes of the political debate. Obviously, as you say, a lot of people post extreme things, say extreme things, never commit violence. But the fact that our rhetoric generally has gotten so extreme I think encourages people who are unhinged to take action, who hear words that people mean as metaphors to be instructions, and end up doing things. And that's true in both these cases. I don't think Democrats are responsible for this guy. I don't think Republicans were responsible for the shooting of Gabby Giffords, but the climate does contribute to people who are not totally there, who are deranged to do things that are really unspeakable.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think there is real distinction between a psychotic like Loughner who had no political motive, who had an obsession with the congresswoman as a person, and somebody who acts, speaks about, is highly political, acts in the name of -- asks somebody, are these were Republicans or Democrats, and then shoots, who I'm sure is not a normal guy. Normal people don't shoot. But I think there's a big difference there, and that's why people ought to be very much more responsible with Trump derangement syndrome.

WALLACE: I want to move it slightly because there's been a lot of talk in Washington today about trying to tamp down the political fires, trying to create a new sense of unity. Here's a taste of that.


SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: There is one image in particular that this House should keep, and that is a photo I saw this morning of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news. For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: Particularly sad that at a time when people want us to come together, and we are prepared to come together tomorrow night, that this assault would be made. But we cannot let that be a victory for the assailant or anyone who would think that way.


WALLACE: Katie, you would like to hope that this would create some new civility, comity, here in Washington. But to take the Gabby Giffords case, I remember President Obama went to Arizona, made a beautiful speech. Everybody thought this was just great. And look where we are now, so it doesn't seem to last.

PAVLICH: It is usually temporary. Nancy Pelosi also said that she prays and hopes that President Trump is safe and his family is safe and for the success of his presidency. That is certainly a step in the right direction. Again, you can disagree on things but also be civil.

But one thing I think that is worth mentioning is the uncivil environment that we are in is not just a result of congress. It's also a result of the larger narrative from the left and the right, and that is perpetuated in the media as well.

And I think that conservatives, Republicans, Trump supporters, Tea Party supporters have been very, very frustrated over the last six or seven years because they have constantly been accused of fomenting this vitriolic environment, of fomenting violent rhetoric. And yet here we are today, and the actions of this gunman are his and his alone. However I think they are frustrated when there's a direct political connection to someone like Bernie Sanders. If this had been on the other side of the coin, I think they environment would have been much different.

WALLACE: Final thoughts, Steve?

HILTON: This discussion reminds me of some of the things that are often said after a terrorist attack. It's the same thing. We've got to come together. We have to fight this Islamist terror. And in the end, nothing much happens. It's the same old story, and I just really think we hear all this but in the end nothing will really change.

And one of the reasons is not just that politicians want to in the end win and attack their opponents. Social media, the way that people express their views these days enables the darkest and worst aspects of human nature to come to before. And I think we are going to see more of it unless we are prepared to really rein it in, which I don't think we are.

Content and Programming Copyright 2017 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.