President Donald Trump slammed 2020 Democratic candidate and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke late Tuesday, just hours before Trump was set to arrive in the grieving border city, where a mass shooting left nearly two dozen dead just days ago.
“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 late Tuesday night.
The Democratic presidential candidate, whose full name is Robert Francis O'Rourke, goes by "Beto," a childhood nickname. In his tweet Trump appeared to refer to competing rallies he and O’Rourke held in February in El Paso. Trump’s El Paso rally drew thousands, but O’Rourke’s counter-rally also drew thousands.
O’Rourke hit back at Trump about an hour after his post, tweeting that “22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism.”
“El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I,” he wrote.
O’Rourke, who was born and raised in El Paso and represented the area in Congress for six years, has fiercely criticized Trump in recent days, saying that his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped embolden violence by racists. Trump is scheduled to visit El Paso as well as Dayton, Ohio, the site of the second horrific mass shooting that happened over the weekend,later Wednesday afternoon.
O'Rourke is scheduled to attend an El Paso community rally at roughly the same time of Trump's visit to the city, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The suspect in the El Paso attack — identified by police as a 21-year-old white man from the Dallas area — posted a diatribe against immigrants in Texas, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News. He also pushed talking points about preserving European identity in America.
“We have a president right now who traffics in this hatred, who incites this violence, who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, calls asylum seekersanimals and an infestation,” O’Rourke said Sunday at a vigil for the victims.
Hours before Trump's tweet, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted that Trump's visit would be "about honoring victims, comforting communities, and thanking first responders & medical professionals for their heroic actions."
Later Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted about a New York Times headline earlier in the week about a speech he made after the shootings in which he condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy" but did not specifically condemn anti-immigrant rhetoric and avoided calling for any specific gun control laws.
He also quoted from a One America News report that Connor Betts, the shooter in the Dayton, Ohio attack — which occurred less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting — "had a history of supporting political figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and ANTIFA.”
On his Twitter account, Betts posted on a range of topics, including anti-fascist ideology. He also referenced Sanders and Warren in a single tweet, but it's not clear whether it was a statement of support.
Both the Sanders and Warren presidential campaigns condemned violence and any possible support Betts may have expressed for them.
“Anyone who thinks that political change should come from the barrel of a gun is anathema to what Bernie has advocated for decades — nonviolent mass political action," Jeff Weaver, a Sanders campaign senior adviser, told NBC News.
Added Kristen Orthman, Warren's campaign communications director, "There is absolutely no place for violence in our politics, and Elizabeth and our campaign condemn it in the strongest possible terms."