Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) plans to meet with President Donald Trump on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, after initially saying he would not do so. Trump will be there for a visit as the city reels from a mass shooting.
“I spent much of yesterday wrestling with the right thing to do when President Trump visits Dayton today,” Brown said in a statement. “I decided I have a responsibility to Ohioans to use this opportunity to look the President in the eye and urge him to do the right thing.”
Brown says he plans to tell the president that he needs to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the Senate back into session to vote on gun safety legislation that has already passed the House.
“I will urge him to stop using racist hate speech to divide Americans and instead work to unite people to support our neighbors and solve our challenges together,” he added. “And I will tell the President if he is serious about supporting mental health, he must support the Medicaid expansion and Affordable Care Act that provide care for so many.”
In an interview with Sirius XM host Joe Madison on Tuesday, Brown said he had no interest in meeting with Trump because of his “total unwillingness to address the issue of guns, his racist rhetoric.”
The president is visiting Dayton after a shooter armed with a legally obtained rifle murdered at least nine people in the city early Sunday morning, a day after another legally armed gunman — who allegedly posted a manifesto indicating his attack was motivated by racism against Hispanics — took at least 22 lives in El Paso, Texas.
In the Tuesday interview, Brown highlighted his constituents’ desire for politicians to take concrete action in response to the shootings, noting that people interrupted Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s speech at a vigil on Sunday with chants imploring the Republican to “do something.”
“Our governor and our legislature in Ohio and our Senate in Washington and our president in Washington have, by and large, been in the pockets of the NRA and they haven’t done anything on gun safety,” Brown said.
In response to the weekend’s mass shootings, Trump avoided blaming guns. “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger — not the gun,” he said. While Trump bemoaned bigotry, hatred and divisiveness, he offered no self-reflection for his own role in fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia.
With his previous stance, the senator would have joined other Texas and Ohio politicians who aren’t all that interested in a Trump visit in the wake of the shootings.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D) said on Tuesday that if people are unhappy with Trump’s visit to the city, they “should stand up and say they’re not happy,” according to The Washington Post. She added that she was “disappointed with [Trump’s] remarks” and stressed his insufficient references to “gun issues.”
“I don’t know if he knows what he believes, frankly,” Whaley said.
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D), whose district includes most of El Paso, declared that Trump “is not welcome here” on MSNBC Monday morning.
“Words have consequences, and the president has made my community and my people the enemy,” Escobar said.
Presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) also criticized Trump’s role in fostering xenophobic sentiment. “He’s helped to produce the suffering that we are experiencing right now. This community needs to heal,” he told the El Paso Times. O’Rourke told ABC News on Sunday that Trump “is a racist, and he stokes racism in this country.”
And while El Paso Mayor Dee Margo (R) said on Monday he would welcome the president, he added: “I will continue to challenge any harmful and inaccurate statements about El Paso.”
This story has been updated to reflect Brown’s change in position.