WASHINGTON — A member of the Nebraska Democratic Party was fired Thursday morning after an audio recording of him surfaced on YouTube saying he was “glad” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot at a congressional baseball game practice and wished the Louisiana Republican was dead.
In the expletive-laced recording, Phil Montag, then the volunteer co-chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party’s technology committee, blamed Scalise for seeking to take away people’s health care coverage through the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“This motherf***er, like, his whole job is like to get people [to] convince Republicans to f***ing kick people off f***ing health care,” Montag can be heard saying in the recording in reference to Scalise.
When he made the remarks, Montag was speaking to Chelsey Gentry-Tipton, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, and her friend, Destin Madison, according to the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb.
It’s unclear how the conversation began, but the recording on YouTube starts with Madison asking, “So what is it you want to do?”
Gentry-Tipton responds to Montag’s complaints by saying, “We know all of this.” Madison later is audible telling Montag that he has been recording him and plans to release the audio of their conversation.
“I hate this motherf***er. I’m f***ing glad he got shot. I’m glad he got shot,” Montag says on the tape.
“So then say something. So then say something,” Gentry-Tipton responds.
“I’m not going to f***ing say that in public,” Montag replies.
“You don’t have to say that in public. Then say something, say something,” Gentry-Tipton says again as Madison asks, “Well then, what are you saying it to us for? What are you telling us for?”
“I wish he was f***ing dead,” Montag then says of Scalise.
“Why are you telling us, but not telling anyone else?” Madison asks.
“I’m trying to f***ing — because I’m trying to f***ing figure out (inaudible)” Montag says.
“It’s ok, because I’ve been recording this conversation since you’ve come in, so I will publicly release it myself,” Madison says before the recording abruptly ends.
Gentry-Tipton has come under fire for remarking on Facebook earlier this month that she thought it was “so funny” to watch congressmen “crying on live tv” about the trauma they experienced in the shootings at the Republican congressional baseball practice, according to the World-Herald. In the same chain, the World-Herald reported she wrote, “The very people that push pro NRA legislation in efforts to pad their pockets with complete disregard for human life. Yeah, having a hard time feeling bad for them.”
The comments prompted the state Democratic Party leadership to call for Gentry-Tipton’s resignation as Black Caucus chairwoman, but she refused to do so, saying in a statement on Facebook that her posts were taken out of context by party officials and that she would not resign “at this point,” the World-Herald reported.
Kleeb, the state Democratic chair, told CNN she made the decision to fire Montag when she saw the video.
“He made disgusting comments about a member of Congress, and we relieved him of his volunteer position of the party on Thursday morning as soon as we saw the video,” Kleeb said. “It’s a disturbing time in politics. I’ve worked in politics for over 10 years, and I’ve never seen such hateful rhetoric from both the right and left.”
Montag could not be reached for comment Saturday. He told the World-Herald that the recording was edited to take his words out of context, adding that he was “horrified” by the shooting of Scalise and “absolutely” did not wish he was dead.
“I did not call for the congressman’s death,” Montag said.
Montag also told the World Herald that the recording posted on the internet Wednesday night was a small part of a conversation that lasted 30 minutes to an hour.
Gentry-Tipton and Madison did not return immediate requests from CNN for comment on the recording or Montag’s allegation that it had been edited to take his words out of context.
Nebraska is a one-party consent state, which means it is legal for an individual to record others without their knowledge as long as the person recording is a party to the conversation.
Scalise, a member of the Republican baseball team, was hospitalized after a gunman opened fire while Republican members of Congress were practicing earlier this month in Alexandria, Virginia, ahead of the annual charity baseball game.
The congressman went through multiple surgeries after the shooting and is still hospitalized, although he was released from intensive care Thursday.
The shooter, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, died from gunshot wounds he sustained in a shootout with police at the practice field, federal law enforcement officials said.
The incident marks the first time a sitting member of Congress was shot since Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords was targeted by a gunman in 2011.