Democratic Candidates Slam Trump After El Paso Shooting Remarks

"Trump has made hate and bigotry and division a political strategy,” Julián Castro said at an UnidosUS event where Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and more also spoke.

Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates went after President Donald Trump on Monday, rebuking his past racist statements and connecting them to the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

“The attack in El Paso was the result of hate and bigotry. Trump has made hate and bigotry and division a political strategy,” candidate Julián Castro said Monday at a forum in San Diego, California, held by UnidosUS, a Latinx civil rights group.

“The attack was an attack on the Latino community, on immigrants, on Mexicans,” Castro added. “And that is no accident. That is due in part to the climate that this president has set of division, of otherness.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also spoke at the event.

Over the weekend, two horrific mass shootings occurred within 24 hours in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The El Paso shooting, in which at least 22 people died, is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism. The alleged shooter, a white man, reportedly posted a manifesto with racist and anti-immigrant messages, railing against “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

“The attack was an attack on the Latino community, on immigrants, on Mexicans ... And that is no accident.”

- Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro

In a speech Monday, Trump blamed racism and white supremacy for the shooting ― but did not point to guns or acknowledge his own role in promoting racist rhetoric.

“We can’t fix a problem if we refuse to name the problem,” Biden said at the event Monday. “It’s long past time that we call it out for what it is: This is white nationalism, this is white supremacy, this is about hate.”

“Mr. President, it’s long past time you stood up to it, you addressed it for what it is. This is hatred pure and simple, fueled by rhetoric … and it’s causing people to die,” he added.

Sanders, in turn, noted the El Paso suspect was “motivated by a strong hatred of immigrants.”

“Today I say to Donald Trump: Stop your anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Sanders said. “Stop the hatred. Because that language, that hatred, creates a situation where certain people will do terrible things.”

Harris called the president “clearly a racist,” saying he had used his microphone “in a way that has been about beating people down instead of lifting them up.”

“What happened in El Paso was fueled by hate,” Klobuchar said. “This president tries to distract us with hate and how he talks about immigrants.”

“Immigrants don’t diminish America, immigrants are America,” she added.

On Sunday, several Democratic candidates, including Harris, Sanders, Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), had linked Trump’s rhetoric to the El Paso shooting, pointing to Trump fueling violence and bigotry with his xenophobic messages. When asked Saturday if Trump bore responsibility for the El Paso massacre, former Texas congressman and 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke was unequivocal in his response: “Yes,” the El Paso native said.

Last month, Trump’s racist diatribe on Twitter apparently targeted four congresswomen of color, saying they should “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.” Days later, the crowd at his reelection rally in North Carolina launched into racist chants of “Send her back!” when Trump mentioned one of the lawmakers, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a U.S. citizen who is also black, Muslim and an immigrant. The three other lawmakers Trump targeted, known with Omar as “the Squad” ― Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) ― are all women of color, and all born in the U.S.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a statement on Monday that Trump’s speech on the El Paso tragedy “does not make up for years of attacks by President Trump on Hispanic Americans and our immigrant communities” and noted that the president “did not take responsibility for the xenophobic rhetoric that he has frequently used to demonize and dehumanize” Latinx people and immigrants.

“The language in the terrorist’s manifesto is eerily similar to the language that President Trump has used at rallies,” the CHC said, noting the president’s previous use of the word “invasion” to describe Latinx immigrants.