South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed disbelief on Thursday at the terrorist attack in Charleston in bizarre fashion, Talking Points Memo reported.
“I don’t know how you can sit with somebody for an hour in a church and pray with them and get up and shoot them,” Graham said of the suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof. “That’s Mideast hate. That’s something I didn’t think we had here but apparently we do.”
Graham then recapped the events leading up to the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, noting that Roof later told police that he almost backed out of his plan to attack the church. The suspect ultimately shot and killed nine people, including a state lawmaker, Sen. Clementa Pinckney.
“That says a lot about them,” Graham said. “That says a lot about him.”
NBC News reported that the senator later doubled down on his statement, saying “The kind of hate that [Roof] exhibited I’ve only seen in the MidEast.”
Graham’s remarks ignored data stating that the majority of terrorist attacks carried out in the US since 9/11 have been perpetrated by white men. As GlobalPost reported, a study by the New America Foundation found that non-Muslims have been responsible for 19 such incidents.
Last month, the Republican presidential contender argued that his experience working in his father’s bar informed his opposition to a prospective weapons agreement between the US and Iran.
“Everything I know about the Iranians I learned in the pool room,” he said. “I ran the pool room when I was a kid and I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are liars.”
Watch the remarks, as posted online on Wednesday, below.