After Shooting, Planned Parenthood Blames GOP Rhetoric for 'Toxic Environment'

Candidates condemn the attack, but stand by criticism of Planned Parenthood.

November 29, 2015, 4:16 PM

— -- While many Republican presidential candidates have condemned the shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, Planned Parenthood today accused some of those same GOP candidates of contributing to the creation of a "toxic environment" that provoked the attack.

"It is offensive and outrageous that some politicians are now claiming this tragedy has nothing to do with the toxic environment they helped create," Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement released today.

Laguens singles out Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina by name, accusing them of "using this tragedy to repeat false claims about Planned Parenthood," and says it's not enough to denounce the tragedy without also stopping their rhetoric against the organization.

"One of the lessons of this awful tragedy is that words matter, and hateful rhetoric fuels violence," Laguens said. "It's not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it. Instead, some politicians are continuing to stoke it, which is unconscionable."

Three people, including a police officer, were killed and nine others wounded in the shooting and standoff Friday at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Robert Dear, 57, eventually surrendered to police and was taken into custody.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that Dear made rambling comments during the incident, some of which suggested animosity toward the health care provider, but police have not said what they believe the motive was for the attack.

Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said today on ABC News' "This Week" that she believed a "negative environment" around Planned Parenthood contributed to recent attacks on the health care provider.

"We’ve seen that across the country from all sorts of speakers in the last few months," Cowart said. "I can’t believe that this isn’t contributing to some folks, mentally unwell or not, thinking that it’s OK to -- to target Planned Parenthood or to target abortion providers."

Fiorina, who has been one of the most outspoken GOP candidates in her opposition to Planned Parenthood and continues to allege that the organization has "harvested" fetal body parts for sale, called the shooting a "tragedy" that cannot be justified. She described attempts to blame the attack on rhetoric she has campaigned on as "typical left-wing tactics."

“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing a messenger because they don't agree with the message," Fiorina told FOX "News Sunday." "What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts, this is typical left-wing tactics."

Trump, speaking on NBC today, called the attack "terrible" and the shooter a "maniac." When asked whether he thought the rhetoric against Planned Parenthood has grown too extreme, Trump replied, "No."

Though Trump, who has in the past referred to Planned Parenthood as "an abortion factory," said he did not understand the killer's motives, he said he understands that many people have strong feelings of dislike for the women's health organization.

"There's tremendous dislike, I can say that," Trump said. "But I see a lot of anxiety and I see a lot of dislike for Planned Parenthood. There's no question about that."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has in the past referred to Planned Parenthood as "butchers" engaged in "barbaric" and "evil" trading of fetal body parts, called Friday’s attack an act of “domestic terrorism.”

"What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable, especially to those of us in the pro-life movement," Huckabee said today on CNN. "We ought to value life. Every life truly does have worth and value."

On the suggestion that the strong anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric that he and other candidates have used has created a tinderbox environment for such an attack, Huckabee strongly condemned that suggestion as well.

"I don't know any pro-life leader, any -- if you can tell me one, please correct me -- I don't know of anybody that suggested violence toward Planned Parenthood personnel or some act of violence toward their clinics. I've not heard that," he said. "I've heard universal condemnations."

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