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An Alabama congressman running for Attorney General Jeff Session’s open Senate seat is facing criticism for a campaign ad that includes audio of the June shooting of a Louisiana lawmaker in a Virginia ball field.
Five gun shots and frantic yelling from the shooting of House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., at a Republican congressional baseball team practice opens the spot released by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., on his official YouTube channel Monday, which he also plans to run on TV.
Text then appears on the screen: “Bernie Sanders supporter fires on Republican Congressmen,” referring to James T. Hodgkinson, 66, a disgruntled Illinois resident who wounded Scalise, 51, and several others during the rampage last month at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Va.
Hodgkinson was a Sanders supporter and volunteered for his 2016 presidential election campaign. Sanders, in a statement at the time, called it a "despicable act."
Sanders' office did not immediate respond to a request for comment on the ad.
Brooks, 63, who attended the practice, appears on screen in the ad being asked by a reporter if the shooting changes his views "on the gun situation in America."
"The Second Amendment, the Right To Bear Arms helps ensure that we always have a Republic, so, no, I’m not changing my position on the rights that we enjoy as Americans," Brooks said in the clip before a voiceover says he approves the ad.
Scalise's office responded to the ad in a short statement. “I guess some people have their own ideas about what’s appropriate,” said Chris Bond, spokesman for Scalise, told NBC News.
Brett Horton, Scalise's chief of staff, tweeted that the ad "makes my stomach churn."
Brooks doubled down on his commitment to run the ad on TV when asked about the criticism.
"The truth is always appropriate," he told NBC News. "It’s one thing to talk about defense of the Second Amendment, it’s another thing to have lived through an assassination attempt and to reaffirm your commitment to the Second Amendment right to bear arms," Brooks said.
Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, was standing at second base when the shooting erupted. He was hit in the left hip but managed to drag himself into the outfield and was rushed back across the Potomac River to a Washington, D.C., hospital.
He is now in fair condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and recently underwent surgery for a deep tissue infection related to his bullet wounds, according to a statement from his office.
When the shooting started, Scalise was playing second base. As the GOP players hit the dirt, the wounded Louisiana lawmaker dragged himself some 15 yards into the right field, leaving a trail of blood.
Brooks used his belt as a tourniquet on one of the victim’s legs.
Brooks, a Tea Party favorite, is running in a heated race to fill Session’s vacant Senate seat. There are 11 Republicans on the ballot, but incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat temporarily in February and Roy Moore, the twice-elected, twice-deposed Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court are Brooks’ main rivals.
The rhetoric between the contenders has ratcheted up on the campaign trail as they attempt to display feverish loyalty to President Donald Trump, who carried every county in the state's presidential primary last year and defeated Hillary Clinton by an almost 2-1 margin.
In his response to criticism of the ad, Brooks noted that Strange “has made the Second Amendment right to bear arms a major issue in this Alabama Senate race, and I believe this ad shows my conviction to defend the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
Strange, Brooks and Moore are seen as competing in the August 15 primary for the two slots in the runoff, which is scheduled for September 26.