Saturday night's mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, brought millions to social media, expressing shock, grief, and outrage at the actions of the gunman who killed 50 people at a gay nightclub and injured over 50 more. Although the overwhelming sentiment is one of sorrow, one high-profile commentator didn't seem too disturbed by the events that transpired. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tweeted a bible verse just hours after news of the shooting broke, and many are interpreting the post as a vindication of the shooter's actions.
At 7 a.m. CT, just a few hours after the shooting took place, Patrick posted a picture of Galatians 6:7 to his Twitter page, which reads: "Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Another tweet was posted to Patrick's account 30 minutes later of a different bible verse, Psalm 37:39, which says: "The Salvation of the righteous come from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble," along with the caption, "Have a Blessed Sunday!"
The first tweet was later deleted in an ostensibly conciliatory move, but the damage was done. Commenters and media outlets jumped on the story, calling out Patrick for the clearly judgmental posts. Twitter user @HopkinsHorn17 was one of the first to connect the post to the Orlando shooting: "Tweeted as new breaks of mass casualties at a gay nightclub. Vile. Have you no shame?"
Patrick's advisor Allen Blakemore released a statement early Sunday afternoon claiming that the tweet was written on Thursday and prescheduled to be posted, meaning it had no connection or reference to the Orlando shooting. It seems likely, especially considering the exactness of the time the tweet was posted, but it's also telling that it didn't seem like much of a stretch for Patrick to post the verse intentionally. A statement like that honestly wouldn't be that surprising from a guy who endorsed Ted Cruz, received an A rating from the NRA, and fought for transphobic bathroom laws, and people seemed pretty ready to believe it.
The grief and anguish incited by the Orlando shooting has shown the country how far there still is to go, both for gun control and LGBTQ rights. Although Patrick's tweet ultimately seems to have been an ill-timed coincidence, it didn't seem too far out of line for a conservative politician to make a comment like that, which is intensely problematic for a country that is trying to resolve a changing sexual and gender paradigm. As the conversation surrounding this incident evolves, it's important to remember that America's politicians have a key role in shaping that discussion, and it is everyone's responsibility to hold them accountable for their rhetoric.