The morning after a horrific mass shooting in El Paso that left at least 20 dead, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said President Trump’s xenophobic and racist rhetoric is “giving people permission” to carry out white nationalist terrorism.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, O’Rourke—a former congressman who represented El Paso in the House—noted that the shooter apparently posted an anti-immigrant manifesto foreshadowing the attack on the border city and then pointed a finger at Trump and conservative media.
“We have to acknowledge the hatred, the open racism that we’re seeing,” O’Rourke exclaimed. “There is an environment of it in the United States. We see it on Fox News, we — we see it on the internet and we see it from our commander-in-chief. He is encouraging this. He doesn’t just tolerate it, he encourages it, calling immigrants rapists and criminals and seeking to ban all people of one religion.”
Anchor Jake Tapper pointed out that the shooter wrote that he had this ideology before Trump was elected and anticipated people would blame the president, prompting O’Rourke to say it is “pretty obvious” that anyone who has listened to Trump’s rhetoric can see he’s “encouraging greater racism.”
“This is the toleration of intolerance and racism in this country, and this is what we’re seeing here today and it will continue to happen unless we call it out and unless we change it.,” O’Rourke added.
“You don’t get mass shootings like these, you don’t torch mosques, or put kids in cages until you have a president who is giving people permission to do that and that is exactly what is happening in the United States of America today,” O’Rourke emotionally declared.
Referencing a moment in the last primary debate, Tapper asked O’Rourke if he agreed with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that the president is a white nationalist.
“Yes, I do,” O’Rourke said, further claiming that Trump is an “open avowed racist and encouraging more racism in this country.”
During a Sunday morning interview on Fox News Sunday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney responded to O'Rourke's remarks, calling it unfair to lay blame for the El Paso shooting “at the feet of the president":
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Beto O’Rourke, a former colleague of mine who I hold in high regard, is running for president and to the extent he can make this an issue he’s going to,” Mulvaney told Fox anchor Chris Wallace. “Here’s the question you can ask Beto and I would if he were sitting here:
“Look, did anyone blame Bernie Sanders for the congressional baseball game shooting? I don’t think so. Did anyone blame Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the gentleman — the crazy guy who tried to blow up the DHS office in Washington state taking, I think, a homemade bomb and an AR-15 to shoot up what he called a concentration camp, the exact same rhetoric that AOC was using? There’s no benefit here to try to make this a political issue.”