Lindsey Graham downplays race after black church shooting: People 'looking for Christians to kill them'
Lindsey Graham on ABC's "The View" (screen grab)

Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham reacted to a mass shooting at a historically black church in home state of South Carolina by suggesting that the shooter was "looking for Christians to kill them."

On Wednesday, Dylann Roof allegedly shot and killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. A witness said that he told them that he was there "to shoot black people."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least 19 hate groups are based in South Carolina, but it was not year clear if Roof was connected to any of them.

Graham told hosts of The View on Wednesday that his niece had gone to school with Roof.

"Strange, disturbed young man," the senator noted. "Emily said in school he was just a quiet strange kid. Seems like one of these Newtown-type guys."

"Once thing it's not -- let's talk about what it's not, in my view -- it's not a window into the soul of South Carolina," Graham insisted. "It's not who we are, it's not who our country is, it's about this guy. This guy has got tons of problems."

He continued: "I can't explain this. I don't know what would make a young man at 21 get so sick and twisted to kill nine people in a church, this is beyond my understanding."

"Do you think it's a hate crime or do you think it's more mentally disturbed?" one of the co-hosts asked Graham.

"Probably both," he replied. "There are real people out there that are organized to kill people in religion and based on race. This guy is just whacked out."

"But it's 2015, there are people out there looking for Christians to kill them," Graham added. "This is a mean time we live in."

Watch the video below from ABC's The View, broadcast June 18, 2015.