Carl Nett, a Republican candidate for secretary of state in Kentucky, tossed off a casual threat of violence against a Democratic lawmaker over gun safety.
Nett describes himself as a former CIA and Secret Service agent. He made the offhanded comment in response to a picture of Yarmuth proudly wearing a pin displaying his “F” rating from the NRA:
He promptly deleted the tweet and issued a statement noting that he had “protected Barack Obama, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton. I voted for none of them. I would have DIED for any of them. My oath is to the Constitution. ALL politicians should keep that oath, first and foremost.”
In addition to being a complete non-apology, the statement is at odds with his remark in 2016 that he quit the Secret Service because he didn’t respect President Obama enough to be his “bullet sponge.”
Nett’s tweet drew immediate outrage, and prompted Yarmuth’s staff to put Capitol Police on high alert.
“We condemn that tweet, in the strongest of terms, as well as any suggestion of violence against anyone, much less a member of Congress,” said the Louisville Republican Party.
“This tweet is especially disturbing in light of recent attacks on Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and our own Senator Rand Paul.”
But Republicans can hardly act surprised by Nett’s behavior, given the example they’ve set over the previous few years.
Trump famously urged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, and said that he would pay the legal fees. Since taking office, his rhetoric has not softened. He has retweeted violent images, including one depicting himself beating up a man with the CNN logo for a head, and another of himself concussing Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.
A new study even labeled Trump’s rallies a threat to public health.
Republicans down the ballot have behaved no better. In Montana, congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs one night before the election. Yet the GOP elected him anyway.
And the NRA itself has employed violent imagery when calling its supporters to action. On NRATV last year, spokeswoman Dana Loesch proclaimed that any institutions that support gun control must be met with “the clenched fist of truth.”
Republicans need to own up to their role in the political climate they have created. Or candidates like Nett will continue this disturbing pattern.