WASHINGTON (AP) — Anger over the police shootings in Dallas must not be allowed to divide us, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday, as he and fellow lawmakers sought to set an example of unity for Congress and the nation. That message was promptly undercut by a Texas Republican congressman, who suggested President Barack Obama bore some responsibility for recent police violence.
"The spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our president, have contributed to the modern day hostility we are witnessing between the police and those they serve," Rep. Roger Williams said in a statement. "As a result, today we are seeing one of the noblest professions condemned by those who could benefit the most."
The comments came a day after a gunman shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven others in Dallas while a peaceful protest against police violence was underway. The Dallas killings, which capped a week that also saw two highly publicized fatal shootings of black men by police, prompted House leaders of both parties to say they would work together to do something, though it was unclear what might emerge.
"Justice will be done," Ryan, R-Wis., said in a House floor speech. He called it a "long month for America," saying the nation has seen terrible and senseless things.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he and No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland agreed to talk Saturday about assembling a bipartisan response that could be announced next week.
"I think there's an opportunity here where people can work together," McCarthy said. While declining to provide specifics, he said, "Why don't we work together? There's too much going on in this country."
Flags over the Capitol were lowered to half-staff in response to the shootings, and members of the Texas delegation, led by Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, led a moment of silence on the House floor. The shootings occurred in Johnson's district just blocks from her home, Johnson said.
And the Congressional Black Caucus held a news conference to renew its call for legislative action to try to curb gun violence. "If we fail to act, this will be a long, hot summer," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., the caucus chairman.
Williams' statement directed at the president appeared to be an outlier amid the somber atmosphere on Capitol Hill, as Republicans and Democrats made a concerted effort to lead by example and adopt a tone of unity. But Williams was not the only prominent Republican to single out Obama. Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, now a talk radio host in Chicago, threatened the president in a tweet that said: "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you."
The tweet was taken down, but Walsh defended it, and told The Associated Press that it was Twitter, not Walsh, that removed the tweet.
In addition to a moment of silence, Johnson said she also wants "firm action" on gun violence.
"We need to bring meaningful legislation to the floor that will help bridge the divide between law enforcement and communities," she said. But Republicans have refused to act on gun legislation pushed by Democrats, and even a GOP leadership-backed bill supported by the NRA has stalled indefinitely because of conservative opposition.
Associated Press writers Sara Burnett in Chicago and Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.