The blogosphere erupted in a collective roar at Washington Post reporter Peter Holley's bizarre attempt to blame the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and other Republican softball players and security guards in Alexandria, Virginia on conservative talk radio. Holley's cockeyed conspiracy theory was that the shooter, James Hodgkinson, may have listened to local senior-citizen radio host Bob Romanik back in Belleville, Illinois (just east of St. Louis).
The online headline is "In Alexandria shooter’s hometown, rage-filled radio host channels middle America’s inner frustration." Fox News had a roundup of the mystified tweets:
What’s the point of this?" BuzzFeed political reporter Katherine Miller asked on Twitter. “The shooter hated Trump and there’s no indication in the story he listened to this pro-Trump host.”
Washington Examiner political correspondent and Fox News contributor Byron York tweeted, “Revision of the year: WP suggests, without evidence, Alexandria shooter was inspired by right-wing bigoted radio talker.”
“Devoted Bernie supporter shoots up baseball field of Republicans. Washington Post blames pro Trump talk radio in his hometown for it,” Heat Street contributor Stephen Miller said in a tweet.
My friend Cameron Gray at NRA News added: "We know from his Facebook page that the Alexandria shooter watched Maddow and other MSNBC shows So @peterjholley tries to indict RW radio."
Here's Holley's summary of the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory:
Romanik is a surly 68-year-old former East St. Louis street cop. He hates Black L ives Matter and talks proudly about his Caucasian heritage to anyone who will listen. And do they listen. His controversy-courting radio program — he’s the self-styled “Grim Reaper of Radio” on KQQZ 1190 AM — reaches across this region, in and around Belleville, Ill.
The suburban community about 20 miles east of St. Louis drew attention in recent weeks because it was the hometown of James T. Hodgkinson, the out-of-work politically frustrated home inspector who up and left, drove a van to the Washington area, and then shot four people at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.
The nation was shocked, but Romanik — who seems to delight in launching savage attacks on local politicians and stoking his listeners’ many frustrations about race, crime and government — certainly wasn’t. Despite being a die-hard supporter of President Trump who has perfected the art of the dire populist message, many of Romanik’s biggest fans in southern Illinois are disgruntled Democrats like Hodgkinson.
For his part, Romanik is eager to be blamed for the violence!
“I can’t say for sure if this Hodgkinson guy listened to me, but he probably did,” Romanik said in a recent interview. “If people would be honest about what drove Hodgkinson to the point of violence, you’d probably see a lot of people right on the same page with him all over the country. But around here, for sure.”
Holley's attempt to gather evidence just fall embarrassingly flat. He finds a Democrat voter who loyally listens to Romanik. “The Democrats have really upset me the past 10 years," the man says. But Holley has just pointed out he voted for Obama twice and Hillary last year. So much for "really upset"!