GOP Rep. Mark Sanford: Trump is 'partially' to blame for rhetoric that led to Va. baseball shooting

Rep. Mark Sanford said Thursday President Donald Trump was "partially" to blame for the hostile rhetoric in America that led to Wednesday's shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R.-La.) and several others at a congressional baseball practice.

"I would argue that the president has unleashed, partially, again not in anyway totally, but partially to blame for the demons that have been unleashed," the South Carolina Republican said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "The fact that you've got the top guy saying, 'I wish I can hit you in the face, if not why don't you and I'll pay your legal fees.' That's bizarre. We ought to call it as such."

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Shooting at congressional baseball practice
A police officer mans a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Police survey a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Police investigate a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) talks to reporters after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People walk away from the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A police officer stands next to a vehicle with a damaged window near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A police officer stands guard near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People stand past crime scene tape near the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. The third highest ranked U.S. House Republican and at least four others were injured Wednesday morning in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice field the Alexandria neighborhood witnesses said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Police tape is viewed near the crime scene of an early morning shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. At least five people people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a shooting erupted as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. Senior congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip, according to fellow Republican lawmaker Mo Brooks who told CNN at least two law enforcement officers and one congressional staffer were also shot in the incident in Alexandria, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Investigators gather at Eugene Simpson Field, the site where a gunman opened fire June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. Multiple injuries were reported from the instance, the site where a congressional baseball team was holding an early morning practice, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) who was reportedly shot in the hip. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Members the FBI survey the damages possibly caused by gun shots on a wall at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team collects evidence at a vehicle whose window is broken at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team collect evidence at the site of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, speaks to the media about a shooting incident during a Congressional baseball practice in Virginia after returning to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, gets on an elevator as he heads to a vote at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017, following a report that the shooter in the attack targeting Congressmen in nearby Virginia was a Sanders supporter. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks to his office after making a statement on the House floor at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 14, 2017, following a shooting incident targeting Congressmen in nearby Virginia. Several people including a top Republican congressman were wounded in a Washington suburb early Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire as they practiced for an annual baseball game between lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: A marker is placed next to a piece of evidence at the scene of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JUNE 14: Investigators search for evidence at the scene of this morning's shooting at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five wounded in the attack, including the suspected gunman, as Republican congressional members practiced for a charity baseball game. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 14: The Peace Monument at the U.S. Capitol is shown, on June 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. This morning House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) three others were shot by a gunman during Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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The congressman described a recent change in tone he has seen in local town hall meetings, noting a growing hostility that seems to be becoming a nationwide issue.

"I was at a town hall meeting -- it was at a senior center, at a retirement center -- and what took place in terms of what people were saying to each other was like out of a movie, and so we've got to find a way to dial this back," Sanford said.

SEE ALSO: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in critical condition after surgery

Sanford added that there is "some heavy soul-searching going on right now" on Capitol Hill following Wednesday's shooting.

A lone shooter, identified as James T. Hodgkinson, approached members of Congress and aides while they were practicing for an upcoming baseball game on Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia and opened fire. Five people were injured, and Rep. Scalise remains in critical condition.

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