Republican secretary of state candidate Carl Nett of Louisville tweeted about shooting Congressman John Yarmuth Tuesday morning.

Republican secretary of state candidate Carl Nett tweeted about shooting Congressman John Yarmuth Tuesday morning, which drew widespread criticism, including from his own party.

In response to Yarmuth tweeting a photo Monday of his new “F” button on his chest — proudly representing his F rating from the National Rifle Association — Nett replied: “Move it over just a bit. I was trained center mass.” Law enforcement and military are trained to shoot center mass, meaning the upper torso.

Nett, a resident of Louisville who ran for state House against Rep. Jim Wayne in 2014, left the tweet up for roughly one hour before he deleted it.

A spokesman with Yarmuth’s office told Insider that in the wake of the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise last year, “Capitol Police have directed offices to be diligent in reporting all threats to members’ safety. They are aware of this situation.”

Nett’s campaign bio touts his former service as a Secret Service officer, stating that while he didn’t vote for them, he “nonetheless protected such prominent Democrat politicians as John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”

After deleting the tweet, Nett tweeted the same reference to protecting those Democrats, stating “I would have DIED for any of them. My oath is to the Constitution. ALL politicians should keep that oath, first and foremost.” However, in late 2016 Nett had also tweeted that he “only protected #Obama a few times….then bailed. I’m not a bullet sponge for just anybody.”

The Jefferson County Republican Party criticized Nett’s tweet shortly after it was deleted on Tuesday.

“Our politics have grown too divisive over the last 10 years,” tweeted the Louisville GOP account. “In regard to the Tweet by Secretary of State candidate Carl Nett this AM, we condemn that tweet, in the strongest of terms, as well as any suggestion of violence against anyone, much less a member of Congress. This tweet is especially disturbing in light of recent attacks on Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and our own Senator Rand Paul.”

While Nett was the campaign contact from Louisville Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet when she announced her run for mayor last year, her campaign told Insider that he “was never on staff for the campaign — he volunteered before staff was hired. He has not been involved since deciding to run for office. We do not condone threats or violence.”

In February, Nett announced that he would run for secretary of state in 2019, “because he is the only Republican who can crush any Democrat in the General Election.”

Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Ben Self issued a statement condemning Nett’s tweet, calling it “not only alarming but terribly offensive given the numerous shootings including one in Great Mills, Maryland today. Nett, a current Republican candidate for secretary of state and campaign contributor to Gov. Matt Bevin, is obviously unfit to be elected for or hold any Kentucky office. Any threats of violence cannot be tolerated in our current political or public forums.”

Nett also talks his past service in the CIA in his campaign material, in addition to plugging his coming autobiography that he bills as “the world’s first, and only, unauthorized first-person expose of the Deep State and America’s Shadow Government.”

The Louisville FBI office issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that it “is aware of the tweet and is working with our law enforcement partners to determine the best course of action. The FBI takes seriously all threats of violence.”

Tuesday evening, state House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Louisville, also released a statement condemning Nett’s tweet.

“I have long thought that our politics have become far too divisive, turning political opponents into enemies and harming the ability to conduct the people’s business,” stated Osborne. “Today’s comments suggesting possible violence against a member of Congress over political differences are emblematic of that divisive culture, and I wholeheartedly condemn them. It is long past time for members of both parties to come together in a civil manner, and do the people’s work without name calling or threatening violence.”

Nearly seven hours after his original tweet, Carl Nett posted an apology to Yarmuth on Twitter, stating that “my attempt to be clever was far from clever” and “I now join the long list of imperfect human beings with ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease.”

Asked if Yarmuth accepted Nett’s apology, his spokesman Christopher Schuler answered: “Sure.”

This story has been updated with the statements of the Louisville FBI and Osborne, as well as Nett’s apology to Yarmuth.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]