BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) apologized on Wednesday for comments he made on WBEN Radio about Democratic "rhetoric," admitting it was a mistake to single out an opposing political party in the aftermath of the shooting in Virginia.
During an interview that lasted more than six minutes on Wednesday morning, Collins told the radio station he hoped "Democrats do tone down the rhetoric" after a gunman opened fire at a park where Republican members of Congress were practicing for a charity baseball game.
"The rhetoric has been outrageous. The finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst, and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters," Collins said in the WBEN interview. "Really, then -- you know -- some people react to things like that. They get angry as well, and then you fuel the fires."
Collins later released a statement saying that everyone -- himself included -- must tone down their political rhetoric.
In a phone interview with 2 On Your Side on Wednesday afternoon, Collins said the WBEN interview caught him in the heat of an emotional moment. Five minutes earlier, he had learned that the shooting occurred-- and that fellow Republican House Whip Steve Scalise had been injured.
It was later revealed the shooter had made numerous social media postings in opposition to President Trump and the Republican Party, as well as posts in support of Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
However, in the phone interview with 2 On Your Side, Collins said his comments about Democratic rhetoric were "not appropriate."
"I fully admit-- I apologize for it... It's all of us, and I'm part of that, and I'll admit when I made a mistake. And I did," Collins said. "It's all of us that need to tone it down. I'm on national TV, taking my blows, kick right straight back, not pulling punches. That echo chamber, I've been part of it. I've been one of the strongest Trump defenders in D.C. We all do need to look in the mirror."
Collins also added that he will now remain more aware of his own security. He said he will carry his weapon at public events in his district in New York, noting that he's had a concealed carry permit for more than 30 years.
Collins, who works closely with Scalise in the House, said he's praying for everyone to make a full recovery. He credited Capitol Police for saving lives, as did the rest of the federal lawmakers who represent Western New York.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Tom Reed and Congressman Brian Higgins all released statements and made social media postings on Wednesday offering support for the victims and the police.