CINCINNATI -- Following the Friday arrest of Cesar Sayoc, a Florida man believed to have sent more than a dozen pipe bombs (and dozens more violent online threats) to prominent critics of President Donald Trump, both of Ohio's senators issued calls to soften the tenor of American political rhetoric.
Democrat Sherrod Brown named the president specifically in his statement, writing: "We must use this as an opportunity to bring our country together, and I call on President Trump to set the tone."
First, Connie and I are grateful to law enforcement for everything they do to keep the US safe. Their investigation is ongoing & we must let them do their jobs. We’re glad no one has been hurt, including postal workers & news media, who play such a critical role in our democracy.
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) October 26, 2018
Trump, however, has no plans to change the acerbic way he speaks, he told reporters at the White House.
The president's rallies have since the 2016 campaign season included periodic comments promoting or endorsing violence against dissenters, including asking attendees at a campaign rally to "knock the crap out of" hypothetical protesters and volunteering to pay the legal fees of anyone who harmed a protester being escorted out of a Michigan rally.
"I think I've been toned down, if you want to know the truth," Trump said Friday. "I could really tone it up."
He had appeared in Montana days earlier to praise Rep. Greg Gianforte, who assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017 when Jacobs attempted to ask him questions about healthcare policy.
"Anybody that can do a body-slam, that's my kind of guy," Trump told the Missoula crowd.
The president's political life has also been characterized by near-daily attacks on what labels the "fake news" media, particularly outlets such as CNN and the left-leaning MSNBC. The former's New York City headquarters numbered among the recipients of Sayoc's bombs.
Ohio's Republican senator, Rob Portman, did not name the president specifically in his statement but wrote: "We, as a society, need to step back from the brink. … Let's treat disagreements like disagreements, not as proof that our opponents are bad people. Let's hold up quiet cooperation, not loud confrontation."
I’ve said consistently that we, as a society, need to step back from the brink. It’s time to lower the rhetoric, and focus more on working together to deliver results for the American people. Here’s my full statement: https://t.co/2RRsDcxYJN
— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) October 26, 2018
Like Trump, White House officials such as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have denied the president's words fomented the attempt at violence against his political critics.
"The president is certainly not responsible for sending suspicious packages to someone, no more than Bernie Sanders was responsible for a supporter of his shooting up a Republican baseball field practice last year," Huckabee Sanders said, referring to a shooting that injured Republican Rep. Steve Scalise.
The gunman in that incident, James Hodgkinson, had a Facebook history consisting largely of articles and petitions supporting the Vermont senator's presidential run. Bernie Sanders would denounced the shooting as "despicable."