There has been a great deal of talk that Wednesday's Alexandria ballfield shootings will be a turning point in the increasing political divides in the United States, but Rep. Ron DeSantis, who encountered the gunman before shots were fired said Thursday he is a "little bit pessimistic that anything much is going to change."
"I got a call after this happened to my congressional office, praising what had happened and hoping that [President] Donald Trump was next," the Florida Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"One of my colleagues got an email saying one down, 217 to go."
On Wednesday, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, was identified by law enforcement officials as the gunman who opened fire on Republican lawmakers while they were practicing for their upcoming charity baseball game.
His social media postings revealed Hodgkinson as an avid supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders and a hater of President Donald Trump.
In March, Hodgkinson posted that "Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co," and in 2015, he posted about Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who remains hospitalized in critical condition following the attack.
"When you talk about people like this, with the virulence and the hatred, that's a small minority of the country, but does have an outside impact," DeSantis said.
"I look around here. We do have tough debates, but I'm not sure that if Congress fixed a little bit of the debate, made it a little bit more civil, that you're going to change a guy like that. I'm just skeptical that that would make a huge difference. Not saying that we shouldn't do it, but this guy clearly was troubled."
DeSantis said he would like people who hold extreme views to see that "politics is not a religion."
"We view government different ways," he said. "Some people want bigger government. I may want smaller government. Because you have a different view of the role of government, that's not a reason for me to hate you personally, wish you or your family ill. The fact that I want smaller government I don't think that's a reason for you to think ill of me."
DeSantis told the program he and Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., left the baseball practice early, and were approached by a man, asking them if the people practicing were Democrats or Republicans.
"Jeff told them it was Republicans and he immediately turned and walked toward the field," said DeSantis. "It was kind of strange at the time. But then once we got back to the Hill and we wanted to beat the traffic, which is why we left a few minutes early, Jeff and I were like immediately we have to report that.
"At the time still, we didn't know it was the gunman."
Once Hodgkinson was identified and pictures were released, DeSantis and Duncan, and a person on Duncan's staff who was driving their car recognized him as the man from the parking lot.
"Jeff and I had been out on the left side of the infield 10 minutes before," said DeSantis. "I was turning double plays with Scalise at third base. Jeff was at shortstop. Had we decided to stay, we would have been in the line of fire."
DeSantis said he and Duncan were "sitting ducks" in their car as well.
"I don't know if the individual had his pistol on him at the time," said DeSantis. "I didn't see a rifle. But we were sitting ducks. It's a surreal experience."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.