President Donald Trump took aim at Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, whose district included El Paso, just hours before he is set to arrive in the grieving border city in the wake of a mass shooting that left 22 dead and once again devastated the nation with horrifying scenes of gun violence.
"Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O'Rourke, who is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him, and is now even more embarrassed by polling at 1% in the Democrat Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!" Trump tweeted.
O'Rourke, whose full name is Robert Francis O'Rourke, goes by "Beto," a childhood nickname. In his tweet, Trump appeared to refer to the dueling rallies O'Rourke and he held in February in El Paso. Trump's "Make America Great Again" event drew thousands, but O'Rourke's counter-rally also drew massive crowds.
O'Rourke hit back at Trump roughly an hour after his post, tweeting,"22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I."
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough lambasted the president as "devoid of humanity" for assailing the congressman over crowd sizes and poll numbers in the wake of Saturday's bloodshed.
“You really get a glimpse into just how devoid this man is of humanity when in response to someone saying his words and actions fed into the hatred that led to this killing, his response is to talk about crowd sizes, right, and political polls and talking about how he quote ‘trounced’ somebody in crowd sizes," Scarborough said on Wednesday. "I think even that’s a lie.”
Trump is scheduled to visit El Paso, as well as Dayton, Ohio, the site of the second horrific mass shooting that happened over the weekend, on Wednesday afternoon. He is expected to receive a chilly — if not outright hostile — reception.
O'Rourke, who was born and raised in El Paso and represented the area in Congress for six years, has fiercely criticized Trump in the wake of Saturday's mass shootings, arguing that Trump's incendiary anti-immigration rhetoric and reluctance to specifically reject white nationalism have contributed to increased violence.
"This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday's tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso," O'Rourke tweeted Monday. "We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here."
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, whose district includes nearly all of El Paso, also said Trump is "not welcome" in her hometown. She said Trump came into "one of the safest communities in the nation" in February, and months later, so did a gunman.
"Words have consequences," she said. "And the president has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared — people to be hated."
The shooter accused of carrying out the massacre in El Paso wrote in a racist screed that "this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," directly echoing Trump's repeated warnings of "an invasion" at the border ahead of the 2018 midterm election cycle.
Trump confirmed Tuesday that he'll be traveling to El Paso, even though lawmakers said he won't be welcomed.
Escobar, a longtime critic of the president, took to Twitter to express her displeasure and condemn the president, who she said rejected her request for a phone call to discuss his rhetoric.
O'Rourke announced on Tuesday that he would be attending an event on Wednesday to pay tribute to the shooting victims and counter Trump's visit to the city.
"When President Trump comes to El Paso tomorrow, I will be joining our strong, beautiful, binational community at #ElPasoStrong. I hope to see you there," O'Rourke tweeted Tuesday night.
Trump has denied responsibility for inciting violence in the past, and he publicly condemned white supremacy Monday during his televised address.
"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy," he said. "These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."