2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, told CNN on Sunday that the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas was the direct result of "the hatred, the open racism that we're seeing" as a result of President Donald Trump's bigoted rhetoric.
"It took someone coming from outside of this community of immigrants to come and bring their hatred and their death to El Paso," O'Rourke told CNN anchor Jake Tapper during an appearance on Sunday morning. Briefly holding back tears as he described how one of the victim's wives who was shot in the chest while raising money for a soccer team he coached, O'Rourke argued that President Donald Trump's racist rhetoric toward members of the Latinx community was partially responsible for the El Paso shooting.
"In addition to universal background checks, in addition to ending the sales of weapons of war in our communities, in addition to red flag laws, we've got to acknowledge the hatred, the open racism that we're seeing," O'Rourke told Tapper. "There is an environment of it in the United States. We see it on Fox News, we see it on the internet, but we also see it from our Commander in Chief. And he is encouraging this. He doesn't just tolerate it, he encourages it. Calling Mexican immigrants 'rapists' and 'criminals,' warning of an invasion at our border, seeking to ban all people of one religion. Folks are responding to this. It doesn't just offend us, it encourages the kind of violence that we're seeing, including in my hometown of El Paso yesterday."
O'Rourke later accused Trump himself of being a white nationalist.
When Tapper asked O'Rourke if he agreed with a comment by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who during last week's Democratic presidential debate referred to Trump as a "white nationalist," O'Rourke affirmed that he shared Inslee's view.
"Yes, I do. And again, from some of the record that I just recited to you, the things that he has said both as a candidate and then as the President of the United States, this cannot be open for debate," O'Rourke told Tapper. "And you as well as I have a responsibility to call that out, to make sure that the American people understand what is being done in their name by the person who holds the highest position of public trust in this land."
He added, "He does not even pretend to respect our differences or to understand that we are all created equal. He is saying that some people are inherently defective or dangerous, reminiscent of something that you might hear in the Third Reich, not something that you expect in the United States of America. Based on their religion, based on their sexual orientation, based on their immigration status, based on the countries that they come from. Calling those in Africa 'shithole nations' and saying that he'd like to have more immigration from Nordic countries, the whitest place on Planet Earth today. So again, let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open, avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country."
The suspect in the El Paso shooting, Patrick Crusius, is believed to have posted an online manifesto shortly before the alleged hate crime in which he wrote that there was a "Hispanic invasion of Texas" and that "if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable." He also complained that "the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold." That shooting left at least 20 people dead and 26 others wounded.