Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg blamed white nationalism, which he said is “condoned at the highest level of our government,” for the mass shooting in El Paso Saturday that killed 20 people. Police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.
“There’s no question that white nationalism is condoned at the highest level of our government,” Buttigieg told Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace when asked if he thinks Trump bears some responsibility for these shootings.
“When this kind of rhetoric happened 20 years ago when David Duke was trying to run for office as a Republican, the Republican Party was horrified,” he continued, referring to the white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader who ran a losing campaign for governor of Louisiana in 1991. “They couldn’t run away fast enough.”
“Right now you see it being echoed by the White House and there is a measure of responsibility that you just can’t get away from when you have case after case of racial rhetoric coming out of the White House,” Buttigieg said. Trump has been under criticism by Democrats for his tweets in recent weeks attacking “the Squad” of Democratic freshmen — four women of color who he said should “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came” — and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, whose majority-black district the president described as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
“And then when you have an actual incident of white nationalist terrorism like the killing in Charlottesville related to people saying ‘Jews will not replace us’ and the president saying you’ve got very fine people there,” Buttigieg said, referring to a white nationalist rally in 2017 that led to the death of a counterprotester. “Of course this is part of a climate where people who are in the grip of this hateful, extremist ideology feel validated and they feel validated from all the way at the top, and that is part of our problem.”
The gunman who killed 20 people and wounded dozens at a packed Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso with an assault rifle has been identified as Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old from Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb some 650 miles east of El Paso.
A hate-filled "manifesto" has been linked to Crusius, and although El Paso police authorities have not confirmed if the shooter wrote the 2,300-word anti-immigrant tirade, they are examining it as “a nexus to potential hate crime.” The four-page document titled “The Inconvenient Truth” expressed support for a shooter who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year, and declared the premeditated El Paso attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The document appeared to draw on the ideology of the “Great Replacement,” a theory that dark-skinned people are becoming a majority in Europe, the United States and other white-majority countries.
Trump called the shooting “an act of cowardice,” saying, “I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today’s hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people.” He did not describe it as terrorism or mention the accused killer’s motives.
But Buttigieg denounced white nationalism after the attack, saying it has “flourished under [Trump’s] watch.”
“America is under attack from homegrown white nationalist terrorism,” Buttigieg said Saturday at a public service forum in Las Vegas when news broke of a mass shooting in El Paso. “White nationalism is evil. And it is inspiring people to commit murder, and it is being condoned at the highest levels of the American government, and that has to end.”
Other presidenital candidates attributed the attacks to Trump’s rhetoric.
“This lies directly at the feet of our nation's leaders particularly the person in the highest office in the land,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said Sunday on MSNBC. Speaking presumably to Trump and White House officials, he added “You have a decision to make. Will you be a part of the problem. Or will you be a part of the solution. Inaction is complicity.”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke partially blamed Trump for the attack in his hometown, calling the president a “white nationalist” and a “racist” who “stokes racism in this country.” And former Housing Secretary Julian Castro retweeted Trump’s condolonces calling him a “hypocrite” who has “targeted Hispanic Americans and immigrants — calling them ‘invaders.’” You inspire hate and violence,” he said.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Trump against arguments that his rhetoric has stoked violence, saying “no politician is to blame” for mass shootings like the one in El Paso.
“The person who was responsible here are the people who pulled the trigger,” Mulvaney said Sunday during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “We need to figure out how to ... create less of those kinds of people as a society [instead of] trying to figure out who gets blamed going into the next election.”
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