Lindsey Graham Says Charleston Shooting Reminded Him Of 'Mideast Hate'

06/24/2015 05:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2015

Last week's horrific shooting in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina reminded Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) of violence in the Middle East.

"I don't know how you can sit with somebody for an hour in a church and pray with them and get up and shoot them. That's Mideast hate," Graham said Wednesday on the Senate floor. "That's something I didn't think we had here, but apparently we do."

Asked by a reporter after his speech to clarify his comments, Graham told NBC's Frank Thorpe, "What ISIL is doing, that kind of hate. It's kind of that hard-heart, that, you know, heart that has been hardened after generations of hate."

Graham made a similar comment last week in an interview the morning after the shooting.

"To go into God's space and do this, I don't know," he told ABC News. "You can't explain it. … I go to the Middle East a lot. I've seen hate up close. I've seen communities where everybody has been killed because they're a different religion, and you think that's just over there. Sometimes it's not just over there."

The presidential hopeful, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, is one of the most hawkish voices in the U.S. Senate. Last month, he called for sending an additional 10,000 U.S. troops to Iraq. He also maintains that the war there was not a mistake.

In his speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Graham praised the community of Charleston for welcoming the alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, into their Bible study.

"He went to Charleston with a plan. The people in the church had no idea who he was or what he had in mind, and he came into the church and he was sitting in the pews by himself, and they invited him up for the Bible study," he said. "And spent an hour with him. And he said they were so nice, I could almost have backed out. That says a lot about them. Says a lot about him."

Earlier this week, Graham reversed course and joined South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) and a slew of other Palmetto State lawmakers in calling for the removal of a Confederate battle flag located on the grounds of the state capitol. He previously defended the flag as "part of who we are."

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