On Sunday, former congressman and current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke appeared on a bevy of morning shows to speak about the horrific shooting that took place in El Paso on Saturday.
During his appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," he partially blamed President Trump's "anti-immigrant rhetoric" for the attack, and compared such language to what one might hear from "the Third Reich."
At one point, host Jake Tapper pressed O'Rourke over a point pertaining to the suspected shooter's alleged manifesto, which claims that the suspected shooter held his radical ideology before the president came on the scene.
So, congressman, you wrote on Twitter, and said publicly in El Paso [that] "President Trump's racism does not just offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence." Now, the document that this terrorist in El Paso – that law enforcement is investigating whether or not he actually posted this document – which refers to Latinos coming to the country as an invasion, which, as you noted, is language that we've heard from from the President of the United States. It also says ... that he had this ideology before President Trump. He kind of anticipated, assuming this document [is] real, the alleged terrorist anticipated that people would blame President Trump for it, and said "I felt this way before President Trump."
After a lengthy pause, O'Rourke replied:
I don't know the point that you're trying to make here, Jake, but it's pretty obvious to me and anyone who's listened to the President and will look at the facts that his anti-immigrant rhetoric – not just the things that I cited, but calling asylum-seekers "animals" or an "infestation." Now, you might describe a cockroach or termites as an infestation – something less than human. You might hear someone in the Third Reich describe a given people based on their characteristic as an infestation or subhuman, but that's what the President of the United States is doing right now, and it's not just with Mexican immigrants, conflating congresswoman Ilhan Omar with the terrorists from 9/11, encouraging that chanting in North Carolina of "send her back."
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. This shooter in the manifesto cites, in part, for his inspiration the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who cites Donald Trump as his inspiration. This anti-immigrant rhetoric – and again, it is not just President Trump, but he's certainly, as the person in the position of greatest public trust [in] power, most responsible for it. This is Fox News; this is what we're seeing on the internet; this is the the toleration of intolerance and hatred and racism in this country; this is what is causing what we are seeing here today, and it will continue to happen unless we call it out and unless we change it.
It should be noted that O'Rourke's remark that the president is calling asylum-seekers "animals" might be in reference to a deceptively-edited clip that made the rounds in May of 2018.
In the clip, which lacked context, one can hear President Trump say: "These aren't people. These are animals."
The full video actually comes from a roundtable discussion regarding sanctuary cities. When Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims brought up the issue of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) lack of access to certain databases as it relates to MS-13 gang members, the president replied:
We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we're stopping a lot of them — but we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals. And we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It's crazy.
It's unclear if O'Rourke is referring to this clip when he claims that Trump is "calling asylum-seekers 'animals,'" but it is possible that he is using the out of context clip to make his claim.
[For further context, in the suspected El Paso shooter's alleged manifesto, it is stated: "My ideology has not changed for several years. My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president. [I’m] putting this here because some people will blame the President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case. I know that the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump's rhetoric." The manifesto does also cite the Christchurch gunman, saying: "In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto."]
During the interview, O'Rourke also called the president an "open, avowed racist," and a white nationalist, again linking him to the Third Reich:
TAPPER: During one of the debates, your 2020 opponent Governor Jay Inslee of Washington said that President Trump is a "white nationalist." That was a fairly stark accusation. Do you agree with that? Do you think President Trump is a white nationalist?
O'ROURKE: Yes, I do – and again, from some of the record that I just recited to you – the things that he has said, both as a candidate and then as the President of the United States. This cannot be open for debate, and you as well as I have a responsibility to call that out to make sure that the American people understand what is being done in their name by the person who holds the highest position of public trust in this land.
He does not even pretend to respect our differences or to understand that we are all created equal. He is saying that some people are inherently defective or dangerous, reminiscent of something that you might hear in the Third Reich; not something that you expect in the United States of America, based on their religion, based on their sexual orientation, based on their immigration status, based on the countries that they come from – calling those in Africa s***hole nations, and saying that he'd like to have more immigration from Nordic countries, the whitest place on planet Earth today. So, again, let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open, avowed racist, and is encouraging more racism in this country, and this is incredibly dangerous for the United States of America right now.