DeSantis Recalls Crossing Paths with Gunman Moments Before Attacker Opened Fire on Baseball Game


In the age of YouTube, historical event coverage is available to almost anyone who wants to watch it. It’s an invaluable resource — not only to see how much has changed, but how much has stayed the same.

Consider, for instance, the television coverage of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Grim though it may be, I took the time to watch how it unfolded live on CBS. Just after word broke of the shooting, CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, in New York, referenced Dallas conservatives who had, a month prior, protested when Kennedy’s U.N. ambassador, Adlai Stevenson, visited the Texas city.

In Dallas, meanwhile, KRLD-TV reporter Eddie Barker, who was the first to report news of Kennedy’s death, also referenced the protests, noting that “the fears here were that, had the president had a problem in Dallas, it would have been at the airport upon his arrival.”

The implication, of course, was that the president had likely been struck down by a rabid right-winger, someone doubtlessly radicalized by the likes of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater. As it turned out, the suspect in the assassination was an ardent commie who objected to Kennedy’s anti-Castro policies and had previously lived in the Soviet Union.

We’ll likely never know for sure whether he was the real (or only) killer, because Lee Harvey Oswald himself was so swiftly killed himself by nightclub operator (and reputed mob associate) Jack Ruby, but part of the reason that febrile conspiracy theories persist about the Kennedy assassination is that leftists simply refuses to believe one of their own shot JFK because he wasn’t lefty enough.

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The thing is, Americans who were alive at the time remember where they were when they heard JFK was shot. (I wasn’t — but trust me, I’ve heard the stories, as I come from a typical Northeastern liberal family and every Camelot-worshiping Boomer will talk your ear off about it at holidays, if given half a chance.)

In other words, it can’t be memory-holed.

Not many people, however, talk about where they were when a fanatical leftist shot up a Republican congressional baseball team practice and almost killed House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise. That was only five years ago and it almost feels as if it happened decades before either Kennedy brother was killed (or the third Kennedy brother killed someone by driving off a bridge and saving himself instead of his passenger, for that matter).

But Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis remembers — in part because he came face to face with the shooter moments before the attack, and knows that yes, the act was politically motivated and the shooter wanted conservatives dead.

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In an interview with Glenn Beck for his podcast published over the weekend, DeSantis — who was a Florida congressman when the shooting took place — relived the events of June 14, 2017, when a mass shooter targeted Republicans who were taking part in an early-morning practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Alexandria, Virginia.

DeSantis, who had been captain of the baseball team at Yale, told Beck that “a lot of people don’t appreciate that, like, the members of Congress, they take this baseball game very seriously … they would practice for, like, six weeks leading into it.”

“I played sometimes, sometimes I didn’t — but so anyway, we’re there the day before the game, we have practice.”

DeSantis, who was playing third base, said he suggested to South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan — who was playing shortstop and who he had carpooled with — that they leave and try to beat morning rush-hour traffic, since they’d already taken batting practice.

As they were walking to the car about 7 a.m., however, they were approached by a man who wanted to know whether it was the congressional Democrats or Republicans who were practicing on the field.

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“And Jeff’s like, ‘That’s the Republican Congressional Baseball Team,'” DeSantis recalled. “The guy turned around, he starts walking to the third-base side of the field, you know, where the stands are.”

The two congressmen left — and, when DeSantis reached Capitol Hill, he turned on the TV and saw news of the shooting.

As it turns out, after DeSantis and Duncan departed, shooter James Hodgkinson returned to his van, got a rifle and a pistol, set up on the dugout on the third-base side of the field and began shooting.

“So Jeff and I would have been number one in the line of fire had we stayed for probably five or seven more minutes,” DeSantis told Beck.

DeSantis told reporters a similar story in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

“We just reported it directly to Capitol Police,” DeSantis told the Jacksonville, Florida Times-Union. “At the time, we were not certain it was the same guy.

“If he was in a crowd of people, he’s not someone who would really stick out,” he continued. “Once his picture came up, the light bulb just went off.”

Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old Illinois man, was killed in a shootout with Capitol Police officers detailed to guard Scalise. At the time, DeSantis said the man was “driven to murder because of his hatred” of Republicans — something he said Democrats were whipping up for their own advantage.

“I’ve had people call and hope that my daughter dies, who is 6 months old,” he said. “But looking at a guy like this who’s acting on those impulses, you have to acknowledge that there is something brewing out there.”

Now, five years later, DeSantis is calling out the media for ignoring the obvious political motivations behind the mass shooting.

“The guy had a Twitter account, he was a raging leftist,” DeSantis told Beck. “And it was clearly politically motivated. And one of the things that happened is that the media, they just tried to totally ignore that.”

“Just think about it: If there was somebody who just once listened to your show who did anything political, they would be all over you … Instead, this was a clearly politically motivated assassination attempt, and they basically just buried it.”

What’s worse, DeSantis said “the FBI said initially it was not something that was politically motivated. It was ‘death by suicide by cop.’ I mean, how outrageous is this?”

Sadly, it could have gotten more outrageous. If Scalise had died — well, there must have been a second shooter on the pitcher’s mound. It was the CIA. False flag. Whatever. Conspiracy theories that would make Alex Jones blush would get batted around the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Democratic end of the cable news spectrum, and Don Lemon wouldn’t even flinch. Raise any questions about voter fraud, however, and watch the apoplexy commence.

Thankfully — because it means, at least, that Steve Scalise is alive — the more infuriating double-standard of the conspiracy theory has given way to the milder hypocrisy of selective memory.

Stripping Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of her role on the House Intelligence Committee because she’s a barely repentant serial anti-Semite? That’s putting her life in jeopardy.

Pumping inflammatory rhetoric about Republicans into the body politic that motivated a mass shooter to take aim at GOP legislators at baseball practice? What mass shooter? What baseball practice?

It’s worth noting that this November marks the 60th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Even after all this time, leftists still can’t blame a commie for what happened, the same way they want to neglect how a raging leftist committed what could have been the deadliest mass political assassination in the country’s history.

The picture you’re watching may be streaming 4K, not black-and-white broadcast TV. The standards, however, remain all-too similar.

CORRECTION, March 8, 2023: Nov. 22 will mark 60 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. An earlier version of this article included a different figure.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture