Susan Walsh/AP Photo
President Donald Trump will visit El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday to honor the victims of a mass shooting on Saturday.
But he is already sowing discord in the city by insulting his critics in El Paso, including 2020 candidate Beto O'Rourke, whom he said had a "phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage."
O'Rourke has been one of the most vocal critics of Trump since the shooting, and accused him of encouraging an anti-immigrant atmosphere that seemingly encouraged suspected gunman.
Some El Pasoans will still welcome Trump, though.
The city's mayor said he has a duty to welcome the president, while one Trump-supporting resident told The Washington Post that he can't be blamed for the rise of white supremacy.
President Donald Trump is sowing division in El Paso before he's even landed in the Texan city to honor the victims of Saturday's mass shooting.
The president is set to arrive in El Paso at 2 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) Wednesday, and is expected to address the shooting that killed at least 22 people and injured 24 others over the weekend.
But over the past few days he has insulted several of the city's politicians, prompting widespread outrage against him and disunity among communities.
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Late Tuesday night Trump slammed Beto O'Rourke — the 2020 Democratic candidate and El Paso native who has accused Trump of encouraging mass shootings — by mocking his nickname and telling him to "be quiet."
"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!" the president tweeted.
O'Rourke birth name is Robert, but he was nicknamed Beto because he had the same name as his father. "Beto" is a common Spanish nickname for people with names that end with "berto." O'Rourke also speaks Spanish fluently.
O'Rourke hit back by accusing Trump of encouraging the shooter's seemingly anti-immigrant motive, saying in a tweet: "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."
Many Trump critics have highlighted a racist manifesto seemingly left by the suspected shooter that expressed a fear that Hispanic people would take over Texas and turn the state into a "Democrat stronghold."
They say that much of the language in the anti-immigrant manifesto echoes that of the Trump administration.
Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas, who represents the El Paso congressional district Trump will visit on Wednesday, said she requested a call with Trump in the aftermath of the shooting, but he said he was "too busy" to talk to her.
Escobar has since rejected the White House's invitation to join Trump on his visit to her district, saying that she didn't want "to be an accessory" for his trip.
El Paso politicians have over the past few days also called on Trump to stay away from their city, with Democratic commissioner David Stout saying that the president "would just put salt on this wound."
Some 17,000 people signed an open letter from the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) telling Trump to "stay away" from El Paso within 19 hours of its existence, the local KRWG radio station reported, citing the group.
"We hope you will have the grace and humility to ask for our community's forgiveness," the letter says. "We hope that following this horror we will never again hear the racist, xenophobic, and hateful language that has marked your presidency."
Many people also plan to protest Trump when he arrives, Sky News US correspondent Cordelia Lynch reported.
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Trump will still be welcomed by some
Some El Pasoans still plan to welcome Trump into their city nonetheless.
Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, told Sky News he is aware of citizens' anger but will welcome the president.
"My primary purpose is to occupy the office of mayor," Margo said.
"He is the president and his own personal decision to come here. I will try to comport myself, I have been on the receiving end of his rhetoric. We said Sunday night at our inter-denominational services that we will confront hate with love."
"Maybe there's a chance we can make sure he's properly informed about our region," he added.
He also told reporters on Monday that he anticipates a backlash to Trump's visit.
AP Photo/Andres Leighton
Many Latino Trump supporters in Texas are also standing by the president, The Washington Post reported.
Eighty-year-old Manuel Hernandez, a longtime El Paso resident who voted for Trump in 2016, told the Post that white supremacy is "not the fault of the president."
"A lot of bad things are expressed against Latinos," he told the Post. "But we don't know if it's this [that inspired the gunman] or not."
"There are a lot of supremacist groups, white supremacists, that don't like minority groups — black people, Latinos," he added.
"It's not the fault of the president, because this has always been around, from way back in time."
Despite Trump's previous anti-Hispanic assertions, including calling Mexicans "rapists," he still has many Latino supporters in states like Texas, Florida, and California.
Many of those supporters embrace his record of reducing unemployment in the Latino community, and the traditional Republican message of self-reliance, according to the Post.
Before visiting El Paso, Trump will visit Dayton, Ohio — the site of another mass shooting on Sunday. He is due to arrive at 10:35 a.m. ET Wednesday.