Following back-to-back mass shootings over the weekend, Democratic presidential candidates have sharply criticized President Donald Trump, blaming his policies and sometimes racist tone for emboldening violent white nationalists.
“His open racism is also an invitation to violence,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman for the district that includes El Paso, Texas, said in an interview with MSNBC. “Jesus Christ, of course he’s racist. He’s been racist from day one.”
At least 30 people were killed this weekend in mass shooting events in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, with dozens more injured.
The El Paso shooter who killed 21 people and injured at least two dozen more praised the racially motivated mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and cited “the Hispanic invasion of Texas” as a motive in a manifesto posted online shortly before the killing spree.
“There is one person who is responsible directly for that shooting in El Paso, and that’s the shooter,” Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said in an interview with ABC News. “At the same time, as our national leader, you have a role to play in either fanning the flames of division, or trying to bring Americans of different backgrounds together.”
“This president, very early on, made a clear choice to divide people for his own political benefit.”
Republicans responding to the weekend’s killing sprees sought to distance themselves from the racist motives of the El Paso gunman and blamed mental illness for the shooters’ actions.
Trump on Monday rebuked hateful ideologies and echoed Republican criticisms of “gruesome and grisly video games” that influence young people.
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said.
In a message posted to his campaign manager’s Twitter account, Democratic presidential candidate New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called Trump’s speech a “b——- soup of ineffective words.”
“This is so weak,” Booker wrote. ‘We should quickly condemn his lack of a real plan.”
Several other candidates have spoken out against the weekend’s shootings, pointing to the president. Including:
Trump has emboldened white nationalism across our country. He needs to go. pic.twitter.com/BvWfPXVxe3
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 5, 2019
Let’s be very clear. You use the office of the presidency to encourage and embolden white supremacy. You use words like “infestation” and “invasion” to talk about human beings. We won’t truly speak with one voice against hatred until your voice is no longer in the White House. https://t.co/CW3wxxTm2E
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 5, 2019
We have a president who actively demonizes racial and religious minorities, who coddles Nazis and Klansmen, and who wields white supremacy as a political weapon. pic.twitter.com/CSKqZDgcFd
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 5, 2019
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.