Two prominent Republicans on Sunday called the Charleston shooting in which a 21-year-old white man allegedly shot and killed nine African Americans during a prayer meeting an act of domestic terrorism.
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the shooting “could be domestic terrorism when you look at it -- clearly it was a hate crime." Nunes, of Tulare, went on to say that he didn't know if federal prosecutors would decide the case warrants terrorism charges. But "from a layman's point of view," Nunes said, "I think you easily call it domestic terrorism."
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum , a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, said on ABC’s “This Week”: “I don't think there's any question when someone comes into a church for the reasons of racism and hate that they're trying to terrorize people. ... I don't think there's any question this is an act of terrorism."
Civil rights activists have called for the killings to be investigated as an act of terrorism in part because an online manifesto linked to the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, calls for violent attacks against African Americans in the South.
Roof faces nine murder charges in the rampage at the Emanuel AME Church, one of the oldest black churches in the South. He allegedly sat with others in a Bible study group for nearly an hour before taking out a handgun and killing the six women and three men.
When asked if federal prosecutors should bring terrorism charges against Roof, Santorum was noncommittal. “Well, federal charges, state charges, there's certainly plenty of charges here. Whether they're federal or state charges really doesn't matter. This young man is going to get justice served on him,” he said.
The comments come a day after Republican presidential contenders squared off over whether the Confederate battle flag should be removed from South Carolina statehouse grounds. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the flag belongs in a museum and the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called for the flag to be taken down “now” in honor of the shooting victims.
South Carolina holds an early primary in the GOP presidential race and the debate over whether the state government should fly the Confederate flag has divided Republican candidates in previous elections.
Santorum said Sunday that the flag’s fate should be left up to the residents of South Carolina.
“I take the position that the federal government really has no role in determining what the states are going to do,” Santorum said. “We should let the people of South Carolina go through the process of making this decision."