Heading out the door to visit the mass shooting sites of Dayton and El Paso, President Donald Trump denied that his repeated anti-immigrant slurs had anything to do with either massacre — even the one carried out by a man who echoed Trump when he referred to Hispanics and immigrants as “invaders.”
“No, I don’t think my rhetoric has at all,” the president told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday morning. “I think my rhetoric brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well.”
Like the El Paso shooter, Trump has called the migrants who come to the U.S. “invaders” in the past. In fact, he has repeatedly used the term “invasion” in press conferences and in tweets and at his rallies across the country. “I was badly criticized for using the word ‘invasion,’” he once said of the so-called migrant caravan.
The criticism has ramped up dramatically since authorities revealed the El Paso shooter’s hate-filled screed, posted online minutes before he opened fire at the Walmart, warned of a “Hispanic invasion,” with many critics drawing a direct link to Trump.
When a reporter in the South Lawn gaggle asked Trump whether he regrets using this type of language — and pointed out that the shooter’s rhetoric mirrors his own — the president deflected. “I think that illegal immigration — you’re talking about illegal immigrants, right? Yes? I think illegal immigration is a terrible thing for this country,” he said, according to CNN’s Daniel Dale.
Trump also equated white supremacist violence, which the FBI recently urged the federal government to take more seriously, with leftist protesters.
“Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it's any other kind of supremacy, whether it's antifa, whether it's any group of hate, I am very concerned about it,” Trump said. “And I'll do something about it."
That remains to be seen, and he may have a tough time convincing El Paso officials of his good intentions during his visit Wednesday. Several have made it clear that the president isn’t welcome in the border city.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, in the afternoon to praise first responders and console family members and survivors from two recent mass shootings. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)