Following his Dec. 26 call for a political purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, Rep. Francis Rooney has been inundated with a tsunami of criticism from across the country.
“We need to protect our law enforcement institutions from extremists like Francis Rooney,” said David Holden, Democratic candidate for Congress in Florida’s 19th congressional district. “He’s lost all perspective and clearly has no respect at all for the Constitution and the role of federal agencies in upholding it.”
“We don’t have ‘purges’ in America! And I will make sure that we never will,” he pledged.
The reaction to Rooney was immediate, nationwide, and overwhelming. Ironically, some of the most intense criticism in the media came from Republicans.
“A ‘purge’ of the FBI? Been reading biographies of Stalin lately, congressman?” tweeted Joe Scarborough, MSNBC host and former Republican congressman from Pensacola. “Stop. Now.” Scarborough had previously announced that he will no longer be voting Republican.
Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, interviewed on CNN, called Rooney’s call for a purge “an affront to the civil servants who work in these agencies.”
Noting that he had been Republican for 30 years, Painter stated that patriotic Americans don’t want to see the FBI attacked, saying, “This is rhetoric of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.” Furthermore, said Painter, “We don’t have purges in the United States of America! That’s Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. That’s not the type of rhetoric we use in the United States of America and that man does not belong in Congress and I sure as heck don’t want him in my party.”
Locally, media were inundated with letters to the editor hammering Rooney. Some samples:
“Rooney is not only an embarrassment to Florida’s 19th Congressional District, but the entire state as well.”—Thomas Hodges, Deland
“Such an approach is anti-American and any proponent of purging political opponents is not fit to be in office.”—Mark B. Cohen, Naples.
“I think US Rep. Francis Rooney and any other senator or representative who wants to do in our police and intelligence agencies for political gain in hampering their investigation of Russian interference in our elections should resign.”—Gerald E. Stinson, Naples.
“I must tell you I am appalled by some of your paranoia and, especially, by your advocating a ‘purge’ of a government agency.”—Gloria Garber, Naples.
Rooney subsequently tried to walk back his remarks, saying in a CNN interview that purge “might be a pretty strong word” and that he’s “not the most nuanced political person in the world.”
Retorted Holden in a statement: “I have to ask: What other job does Rep. Rooney have as the representative of Southwest Florida than to use words to make the case for Southwest Floridians in Congress? If he doesn’t know what words mean, if he’s not politically nuanced, he shouldn’t be holding this office. And if he’s going to use the word ‘purge’ to describe how he’s going to treat the FBI, he doesn’t understand history and belong at the helm of a democracy.”