U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, still wearing his dusty baseball outfit, was on the verge of tears as he spoke Wednesday at the Capitol about the gunfire that erupted at a congressional baseball practice.
Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, said he decided to keep the dirty clothes on: “My breaking point is done. We have to come together as Americans.”
He got teary as he said he had to borrow one colleague’s phone to call his wife to tell her he was OK, moments after he saw another colleague shot.
Davis said at one point he heard, “Everybody run, he’s got a gun,” and then “we immediately ran and got into the dugout and from there many of us dispersed to even safer areas. The heroes, our thoughts and prayers go out to my friend and colleague Steve Scalise, but also the staffers who were there, who come to practice every day to help us play a game for charity. And also the Cap police that were injured, they’re the heroes, they’re the ones that saved us because they were able to fire back at this maniac.”
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Davis said he did not see the shooter.
“I never thought I’d go to baseball practice and get shot at, so I’m probably not a good witness when we’re all trying to run away from the bullets,” he said.
He said he at one point he thought Scalise was dead: “I saw him lying in the outfield, as everybody else was taking cover,” he said, his voice breaking. “Steve Scalise laid in that outfield while the shooter was there after he’d been shot. Steve Scalise needs everybody’s prayers right now.”
He said he didn’t even know who told him to run, he just did: “When somebody recognizes that we’re being shot at and says run, you don’t stand around and ask why they’re telling you that.”
Davis said members left the dugout and went behind cover and eventually moved across the street, behind cover and cars. He said someone told them “he’s coming around the corner of the field,” so they ran up a sidewalk, between two apartment buildings.
“And a good Samaritan saw us running and said come in. We went in and that’s when I was able to call my wife, that’ when I was able to call my kids and call 911 before that.”
Asked about security, he said it would likely be stepped up, but said: “We’ve got to stop. We’ve got to come together as Republicans and Democrats. This political hateful rhetoric that’s going on, be it social media or in the news cycle where it seems as though Republicans and Democrats don’t get along out here, that’s just not true, and what that rhetoric and that hatefulness has led to is members of Congress, I believe, having to dodge bullets today at a baseball practice for a game that we play for charity that raises over $600,000 for local DC charities.”
Davis said the rhetoric on all sides of the debate, including politicians and the media, needs to change and called on the media.
“We have to come together and make that happen,” Davis said. “We can disagree on policies but we have the ability as Americans to disagree on policies, because that’s what makes our country great. If you don’t like policies of someone who’s elected, change them at the ballot box, but be respectful and kind and stop the hateful rhetoric that I see coming out of politics, and Congress. I see it coming out of the news media, I see it on social media. Today is our day, and I’m going to do everything I can to work together, and continue to work with my friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle and send this same message.”
During a conference call with reporters later in the day, Davis said he would be more cognizant of his environment after Wednesday’s events.
“By God’s grace everyone of the good guys who were injured it looks like are on a path to recovery and the mad man is dead, and there’s only one place in hell for someone like that,” Davis said.
Davis during the conference call said that Republicans and Democrats do get along in Washington and said his colleagues across the aisles were friends.
“A majority of what we do is bipartisan,” Davis said. “The areas where we disagree that gets so much attention, those are policy differences that can be debated and solved in the government our forefathers created where I’m blessed to serve. Those are the places where we can have the debate, and debate shouldn’t be with bullets on a baseball field.”
“I don’t want any more Gabby Giffords tragedies, and I never thought in my I would ever be part of tragedy like this today,” Davis said, referring to the former Arizona Democratic representative who was shot in 2011 while meeting with constituents.
Davis, however, would not discuss specific policy proposals to address situations like Wednesday’s shootings.
“To bring in policy proposals now with such a tragedy, where we may agree or disagree, I don’t think it’s the right time to ask those questions,” Davis said.
He added, “This should never happen and we as Republicans and Democrats have to come together and say as a team, and as members of Congress in the greatest country in the history of the world, that this hate and this rhetoric has got to be toned down. It has got to stop.”
Davis called it his “breaking point” for civility in politics.
“If you go to baseball practice for a game for charity and you have to dodge bullets and you watch your colleagues lay in the field? It’s my breaking point. This has to stop. Hate has to stop. We can disagree on policies as Republicans and Democrats, as Americans, but that’s what makes this country great because we are Americans.”
Davis said he didn’t doubt the members of Congress were targeted.
“It’s a sad testament of what I now consider political rhetorical terrorism,” he said.