Republican presidential candidate calls the shooting ‘an absolute heinous hate crime’ as spokesman says Perry meant to say ‘incident’ not ‘accident’
Rick Perry on Saturday commented again on the shooting deaths of nine people in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, an incident which he previously described as an “accident” .
A campaign spokesperson subsequently said the candidate had misspoken, saying: “From the context of his comments, it’s clear Governor Perry meant ‘incident’.”
The suspect in the Charleston shooting, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, appeared in court on Friday. Roof is white; the nine people who died at the Emanuel AME church on Wednesday night, at a Bible study meeting, were all black.
On Saturday a law enforcement source confirmed to the Guardian that the FBI was investigating a website which contained photographs that appeared to be of Roof and a racist manifesto which appeared to have been written by him.
Perry, a former Texas governor who is making a second run for the White House, made the controversial remarks on Friday. Speaking to the conservative NewsmaxTV about the motivation for the Charleston shooting, he also said: “It seems to me – again, without having all the details about this one – that these individuals have been medicated. And there may be a real issue in this country, from the standpoint of these drugs, and how they’re used.”
On Saturday, Perry attended the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, along with a number of Republican White House hopefuls. He told reporters: “I think we all come here today with heavy hearts for those individuals in Charleston – those Charleston Christians – who were gunned down in an absolute heinous hate crime inside of their place of worship.
“That deranged individual didn’t just take lives of black Americans – he gunned down nine children of God.”
Perry continued: “There is something more basic to our humanity than the color of our skin, our ethnic heritage, our nationality. It’s that we’re all made in the image of a loving God. And we cannot let hatred and violence break the ties that bind us together.”
In his Newsmax interview, Perry also accused President Barack Obama of using the Charleston shooting to call for legislation on gun control .
“This is the MO of this administration,” he said. “Any time there is an accident like this, the president is clear. He doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message.”
In Washington on Saturday, Perry was less strident on the issue.
“I think it is healthy for us as a nation to have conversations and defend our positions whatever they may be,” he said. “I do have an issue that the knee-jerk from the left is always ‘We’re going to take people’s guns away from them’, when in fact there may be a host of contributing factors here.”
The leading Democratic candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton, also addressed the Charleston shooting on Saturday . Speaking in San Francisco to the US Conference of Mayors, the former secretary of state called for “commonsense” gun control reform to keep guns from criminals and the mentally ill, while “respecting responsible gun owners”.
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