During his Sunday morning “State of the Union” broadcast, host Jake Tapper listed several GOP officials who rejected requests to appear on the program ― Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
“We also asked the White House to provide someone to discuss these shootings,” Tapper added. “That request, too, was declined.”
The refusals come just after at least 22 people were killed Saturday in an El Paso Walmart where the suspected gunman, a 21-year-old white male, may have been targeting Hispanic people, based on a white supremacist manifesto published online shortly before the attack. Authorities are treating the shooting as a domestic terrorism case and prosecutors said Sunday they will seek federal hate crime charges against the man.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, at least nine people were killed in Dayton’s downtown Oregon district by a 24-year-old white male who was killed by police. The victims included the shooter’s younger sister.
Close to 60 people were injured in the two massacres, many critically.
Several Democratic presidential candidates appeared on CNN Sunday to condemn the failure of GOP lawmakers to back stricter gun control measures that regularly are proposed after mass shootings but rarely advance.
The Democrats also decried President Donald Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, which much of the GOP either has been slow to renounce or silent about.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), an El Paso native, has been especially vocal among his party’s White House hopefuls, demanding on Sunday that the public “acknowledge the hatred, the open racism that we’re seeing” in light of the violence that unfolded in his state.
“We see it on Fox News, we see it on the internet, but we also see it from our commander in chief,” he told Tapper. “He is encouraging this. He doesn’t just tolerate it, he encourages it.”
Presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont also rebuked the president’s bigotry, as did South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He told Fox News that the El Paso shooting is an example of “white nationalist terrorism” and that in Washington “white nationalism” has been “condoned at the highest levels.”
Despite indications the El Paso gunman embraced white supremacy and racial hatred, Abbott focused on mental health in his response to the deadly rampage, speculating at a press conference on Saturday that it is “a component ... probably ... to any type of shooting that takes place.”
In a separate statement, the governor, a favorite of the National Rifle Association, showed no signs he would be addressing the easy access to guns in his state and much of America.
“I think we need to focus more on memorials before we start the politics,” he said.
This story has been updated after the death toll increased Monday morning.