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Hours before he was due to arrive in El Paso on a mission to “help heal” the city after a mass shooting, President Donald Trump told presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to “be quiet” and “respect the victims.”
Trump also repeated a widely discredited claim that O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in the House of Representatives for six years, adopted his first name to appeal to Hispanic voters.
“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 just before midnight on Tuesday.
O’Rourke responded on Wednesday morning to Trump’s taunts.
"22 people are dead in my hometown after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I,” the former Congressman tweeted.
O’Rourke’s given name is Robert, but he has been using the traditionally Hispanic nickname Beto for decades and has not tried to hide his real name.
Trump’s tirade came just 24 hours after he delivered a scripted speech at the White House in which he said that “now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside.”
Trump will visit El Paso on Wednesday to “meet with First Responders, Law Enforcement, and some of the victims of the terrible shootings,” he said in a tweet posted hours earlier.
O’Rourke has been vocal in his criticism of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, claiming that it inspired Saturday’s attack, before which the gunman posted a four-page rant railing against a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
“We have a president right now who traffics in this hatred, who incites this violence, who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, calls asylum seekers animals and an infestation,” O’Rourke said at a vigil on Sunday.
Immediately after that vigil, O’Rourke reacted angrily when a reporter asked him what Trump could do to make this situation better.
“He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. Members of the press, what the fuck?” said O’Rourke. “It’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what [Trump’s] been doing in this country: He's not tolerating racism; he's promoting racism. He's not tolerating violence; he's inciting racism and violence in this country.”
When Trump visits El Paso on Wednesday, he’s likely to be met by protesters who oppose his attacks on immigrants and his unwillingness to do anything about gun control. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex) who represents El Paso, will attend the protests, saying Tuesday she would be skipping Trump’s visit.
“From my perspective, he is not welcome here. He should not come here while we are in mourning,” Escobar told MSNBC Tuesday. “I would encourage the president’s staff members to have him do a little self-reflection. I would encourage them to show him his own words and his actions at the rallies.”
Cover: Presidential candidate and former congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks with the media outside the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)