Rick Santorum Says Charleston Shooting Was An Attack On "Religious Liberty" & He's Totally And Entirely Wrong

Nine black prayer-meeting attendees were killed on Wednesday after a lone gunman opened fire inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, but that didn't stop 2016 presidential candidate Rick Santorum from questioning the motivation behind the incident. In an utterly baffling move, Santorum called the shooting an attack on "religious liberty" during a meeting with New York AM 970 radio host Joe Piscopo, rather than referring to the incident as a hate-crime. It was a low-blow, given that authorities themselves had determined the crime was racially motivated directly after the attack.

"It's obviously a crime of hate," said Santorum, citing the shooting as part of a larger agenda to take down Christian America. "We don’t know the rationale, but what other rationale could there be?"

Santorum added that he couldn't understand why someone would enter a church building and "indiscriminately kill people."

With a mountain of evidence pointing to an obviously racially charged motive, Santorum's comments to Piscopo weren't just insensitive to the fact, they were flat out wrong. Totally and absolutely wrong. Worse — not only did Santorum settle for parlaying an incorrect message, he used it as the crux in an increasingly belligerent discussion over the so-called "war on Christians". It was a straw man argument at best.

Santorum didn't stop there either, explaining:

All you can do is pray for those and pray for our country. This is one of those situations where you just have to take a step back and say we — you know, you talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before. It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.

With his statements on Thursday, Santorum cherry picked through the facts presented to the public, inserting the narrative that fit his current presidential run best. Since his candidacy announcement in May, Santorum has campaigned on a largely ecclesiastical-leaning ticket that includes opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights, and championing freedom of religion in the workplace. It's not surprising, then, to learn that he has essentially utilized Wednesday night's tragic events as a talking point in his grand presidential scheme.

According to police reports and aggregated witness statements, alleged shooter Dylann Roof sat with the prayer meeting congregants inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for nearly an hour on Wednesday June 17, before he reportedly pulled out a gun and opened fire. Witnesses told police that Roof had stood up prior to pulling the trigger and declared that he was there "to shoot black people."

"[He said], 'You've raped our women, and you are taking over the country ... I have to do what I have to do,'" said Sylvia Johnson, the cousin of victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, in a comment to CNN on Thursday.

A recently circulated Facebook photo of Roof also showed the 21-year-old wearing a jacket with apartheid-era patches and white-supremacy logos.

"He said blacks were taking over the world [and] someone needed to do something about it for the white race," recalled one former school friend in an interview with AP reporters on Friday. Explained Joseph Meek Jr.:

He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘That’s not the way it should be.’ But he kept talking about it.

Roof, according to all known reports, clearly had it in his head that the black community was a detriment to society — and he implemented that racially charged belief as metaphorical ammunition in order to turn the figurative into a reality.

With his reluctance toward calling out the horrific mass shooting in Charleston for what it really was, Rick Santorum hasn't just denied that reality, he's trampled on the deaths of the victims who lost their lives to one thing, and one thing only — the cancerous myth of the race card and the false pretense of the aggressive war on Christianity.

And if you're wondering whether Santorum has come forward and apologized for those insensitive statements? Don't hold your breath.