US President Donald Trump called for "more civility" in politics after a string of parcel bombs targeted prominent politicians. Critics claim his attacks on the media and Democrats provide fuel for political violence.
Deep divisions and the specter of political violence erupted in the United States Wednesday after a string of parcel bombs were sent to prominent Democrats and news outlet CNN.
At least seven packages were intercepted before they reached former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others. None of the parcels exploded and nobody was hurt. The FBI has launched an investigation.
US President Donald Trump condemned political violence and called for unity, but Democrats and critics were quick to put the blame on the president's often vitriolic rhetoric.
At a rally in Wisconsin ahead of the November 6 mid-term vote that could see Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress, Trump told supporters the media had a responsibility "to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories."
"Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself," Trump said. "We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony."
But he also said that those "engaged in the political arena" must stop treating political opponents as being "morally defective."
"No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historic villains, which is done often," he said.
Critics lay the blame at Trump's door
Former CIA Director John Brennan, who had a parcel bomb addressed to him at CNN's office in New York, said he may have been targeted because of his strong criticism of Trump. Brennan is actually an analyst for NBC.
"If I and others are being targeted because we're speaking out ... it's a very unfortunate turn of events," he said at an event in Austin. "Donald Trump too often has helped to incite these acts of violence" but "I'm hoping that maybe this is a turning point."
The media has often been at the center of Trump's barbs against "fake news" and he has labeled journalists as "enemies of the people." CNN is one of the president's favorite targets.
CNN president Jeff Zucker issued sharp criticism of Trump's verbal assaults on the media.
"There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," said Zucker. "Words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."
Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi, two top Democrats, said in a statement that Trump's "words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence."
"Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions: Expressing support for the Congressman who body-slammed a reporter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Charlottesville, his supporters at rallies who get violent with protestors, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people," they said.
The spree of parcel bombs started on Monday with one sent to the New York home of George Soros, a financier of liberal causes who is a bete noire of the far-right. In recent weeks, Soros has been accused by conservatives of trying to undermine Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination and backing a caravan of Central American migrants trying to reach the United States.
Laura Silber, a spokeswoman for Soros' Open Society Foundations, blamed toxic political rhetoric for the bomb scares.
"The hateful rhetoric that dominates politics in the US and in so many countries around the world breeds extremism and violence," Silber said in a statement. "In this climate of fear, falsehoods and rising authoritarianism, just voicing your views can draw death threats."
cw/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)