As evidence about the horrific Charleston shooting emerged Wednesday, in which a white shooter alleged to be 21-year-old Dylann Roof, cold-bloodedly murdered nine black people as they prayed in a historic church, the picture of a racially motivated hate crime became clear to everyone — well, almost everyone.
The alleged shooter himself was reported to have told police that he committed the atrocity in order to start a race war, and the eyewitnesses account of one shooting survivor said that as he killed person after person in the church, Roof told them, “You rape our women, you are taking over our country, you have to go.”
Even the police chief of Charleston immediately described the shooting as a “hate crime.”
“I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” Bush said, speaking at Washington event staged by a group known as The Faith and Freedom Coalition on Friday.
Bush was not the only candidate in the presidential field to defer on the issue of whether the gunman — who was pictured on his own Facebook page wearing a jacket emblazoned with white supremacist symbols — was motivated to kill by racial hatred.
Former United States Senator Rick Santorum described the killings as “an attack on religious liberty” while current Senator Lindsey Graham, who represents South Carolina where the Charleston shootings took place, said that Roof was “out there looking for Christians to kill them.”
On the morning after the shootings, Fox News also featured a program on which the theory was proposed that the shootings were, in fact, an attack on “Christians,” rather than specifically on black people because of their race.
The Huffington Post later contacted the Jeb Bush campaign via its Twitter feed, with reporter Sam Stein asking directly, “Does he believe it was racially motivated?”
Stein received a reply from Bush spokesperson Tim Miller, she said simply, “Of course.”
But Bush himself, apparently, still wasn’t quite sure.
The Huffington Post again caught up with the candidate Friday and asked again whether he believed that the Charleston shooting was a racial hate crime.
“I don’t know. Looks like to me it was, but we’ll find out all the information,” Jeb Bush said of the Charleston shootings. “It’s clear it was an act of raw hatred, for sure. Nine people lost their lives, and they were African-American. You can judge what it is.”
[Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]