Just hours after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke appeared on multiple news programs, blaming President Donald Trump as a cause of the tragedy.
"Yes, we’ve had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years during an administration where you’ve had a president where you’ve called Mexicans rapists and criminals," O’Rourke told ABC-7 on Saturday when asked directly if the president is responsible.
O’Rourke’s remarks came in the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart in the presidential hopeful’s home town of El Paso, Texas. At least 20 individuals were killed in the Saturday attack and more than two dozen others were left injured.
"[Trump] is a racist and he stokes racism in this country," he continued. "And it does not just offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence."
O’Rourke also appeared on CBS News’ "Face the Nation" the following morning where he again contended that "President Trump has a lot to do with what happened in El Paso" the day prior.
"[I’m going] to ensure that we do everything that we can to guarantee that this does not happen again going forward," O’Rourke told host Major Garrett. "It has to go well beyond thoughts and prayers, and even beyond sensible gun control legislation universal background checks, like ending the sales of weapons of war."
"This is really about hatred and racism and intolerance that continues to grow in this country," he continued. "Hate crimes are on the rise for each of the last three years, division being sown by this president, hatred being welcomed during his administration — all of us must stand up against this and for a much better, a much safer country."
Interestingly, CNN’s Jake Tapper confronted O’Rourke with a document allegedly written by the suspected gunman, stating that his racist beliefs were ingrained prior to Trump’s leadership.
"I don’t know the point that you’re trying to make here, Jake," O’Rourke replied after pausing a few moments, before continuing to compare the president’s "racist" rhetoric to Nazi Germany's Third Reich.
"Let’s not mince words right now, this president is encouraging greater racism, and not just the racist rhetoric but the violence that so often follows," the former congressman continued. "This shooter in the manifesto cites in part for his inspiration the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who cites Donald Trump as his inspiration."
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney brushed off O’Rourke’s accusations of racism as a talking point for his presidential campaign.
"Here’s the question you can ask Beto … did anyone blame Bernie Sanders for the congressional baseball game shooting? No, I don’t think so," Mulvaney said on ABC’s "This Week." "Did anyone blame Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the crazy guy who tried to blow up the DHS office in Washington state, taking a homemade bomb and an AR-15 to shoot up what he called a concentration camp — the exact same rhetoric that [Ocasio-Cortez] was using?"
"There’s no benefit here to trying to make this a political issue," he added.