Republican Bailey apologizes for telling public shortly after Highland Park massacre to ‘move on’ and ‘celebrate’ the Fourth

“The shooter is still at large, so let’s pray for justice to prevail, and then let’s move on and let’s celebrate — celebrate the independence of this nation,” state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said on Monday 90 minutes after the shooting that left seven dead and at least 30 wounded.

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Republican nominee for governor Darren Bailey, fifth from left in front row, speaks on a Facebook livestream from Skokie on July 4.

Republican nominee for governor Darren Bailey, fifth from left in front row, speaks on a Facebook livestream from Skokie on Monday.

Facebook screen image

Republican nominee for governor Darren Bailey has apologized for telling residents to “move on” from the Highland Park mass shooting 90 minutes after the horrific attack unfolded on the Fourth of July — and more than six hours before a suspect was arrested. 

Bailey, a state senator from downstate Xenia, started live-streaming video at 11:44 a.m. Monday to his 111,000-plus Facebook followers from Skokie, where Independence Day festivities were canceled due to the tragedy in the nearby North Shore suburb. The shooting started at 10:14 a.m., authorities said. 

Standing in a parking lot and surrounded by about 20 supporters while details on the attack were still scarce, Bailey offered prayers for the families of victims and law enforcement responding to the scene about 15 miles away from where Skokie’s own parade was supposed to take place. 

“There’s a lot of confusion and frustration that the [Skokie] parade is being canceled, but they did the right thing, because people’s safety has to come first,” Bailey says in the video. “The shooter is still at large, so let’s pray for justice to prevail, and then let’s move on and let’s celebrate — celebrate the independence of this nation.”

Bailey, who won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in a landslide last week, then pivoted to politics: “We know the mission: we have got to get corruption and evil out of our government, and we have got to elect men and women of honor and of courage, to get this country and this state back on track.” 

He closed by leading supporters in prayer. 

The man police identified as the suspected gunman, Robert E. Crimo III, wasn’t taken into custody until about six hours later. Seven people were killed and at least 30 were wounded in the massacre.

Bailey’s call to “move on” was swiftly condemned on social media. 

“This is what happens with MAGA type candidates,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., referring to Bailey’s endorsement from former President Donald Trump. “They have been so trained with ‘own the libs’ and anger that they lost the ability to have compassion.”

Former President Donald Trump, right, ushers gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Darren Bailey to the podium at a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill., in June.

Former President Donald Trump, right, ushers gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Darren Bailey to the podium at a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill., last month.

Mike Sorensen/Quincy Herald-Whig via AP

Bailey’s campaign did not respond to the Sun-Times’ requests for comment, but through a spokesperson, Bailey told the Daily Beast: “I apologize if in any way we diminished the pain being felt across our state today. I hope we can all come together in prayer and action to address rampant crime and mental health issues to make sure these horrific tragedies don’t happen again.”

Bailey is widely considered the underdog in his campaign against incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in November’s general election.  After Bailey won the GOP primary, the nonpartisan University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Sabato’s Crystal Ball immediately shifted its prognostication for the Illinois governor’s race to “Safe Democratic.”

Pritzker — a billionaire who put millions of dollars behind an ad campaign aiming to boost Bailey in the Republican primary because he was viewed as a weaker opponent in November — called for stricter gun control measures while speaking in Highland Park hours after the attack. 

“Our founders carried muskets, not assault weapons, and I don’t think a single one of them would have said you have a constitutional right to an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine — or that that is more important than the right of the people who attended this parade today to live,” Pritzker said. 

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