The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were unmoved by President Donald Trump’s remarks on Monday about the two mass shootings that left at least 31 dead this weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
In a nationally televised address from the White House, Trump cited mental illness and “the glorification of violence in our society” including “gruesome and grisly video games” as part of the issue that fuels gun violence, and vowed to “shine light on the dark recesses of the internet,” where the Texas shooting suspect vented about his hatred for immigrants.
Former Vice President Joe Biden called out Trump’s comments, citing the president’s past rhetoric on immigration. The president has described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals and referred groups of migrants as part of an “invasion.” He also laughed when a supporter suggested in May that the best way to stop immigrants is to “shoot them.”
“We won’t truly speak with one voice against hatred until your voice is no longer in the White House,” Biden said. The former vice president was one of a slew of presidential candidates who have connected the El Paso shooting to Trump’s past comments about immigrants.
Biden also took aim at tweets Trump sent earlier Monday in which he suggested tying background checks to immigration reform.
“Mr. President, immigration isn’t the problem. White nationalism is the problem. America’s inaction on gun safety legislation is the problem. It’s time to put the politics aside and pass universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. Lives depend on it,” Biden tweeted.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke also honed in on the president’s tweet, noting that his call to tie immigration reform to new gun legislation is particularly tone deaf, since the gunman in El Paso was targeting immigrants.
“Only a racist, driven by fear, could witness what took place this weekend—and instead of standing up to hatred, side with a mass murderer’s call to make our country more white. We are so much better than this president,” the former congressman from El Paso tweeted.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted that “I agree” with Trump’s remark that “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.”
“We should start by getting you and your white nationalism out of the White House,” Inslee said.
Former housing secretary Julian Castro tweeted that Trump’s words “could not be more hollow.” “He says ‘we must condemn racism, bigotry and white nationalism’ —but often serves as their national spokesperson,” Castro said.
In a text message shared by his campaign manager on Twitter, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker blasted Trump’s remarks as a “bullshit soup of ineffective words” and “weak.”
“The president is weak,” Booker tweeted later. “And wrong. White supremacy is not a mental illness, and guns are a tool that white supremacists use to fulfill their hate.”
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio called out the president for misidentifying the location of the Ohio attack during his address. Though he had at first correctly identified Dayton, Trump later said, “May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo,” referencing another Ohio city that is 150 miles away.
Ryan said he is “concerned about his diminished mental capacity to even remember the tragedy that just happened in Dayton, Ohio, and called it Toledo. That is of significant concern to me and should be to every single American.” He also said the president’s comments were “completely disingenuous.”
Biden made a similar mistake at a fundraiser in San Diego on Sunday, where he misidentified the sites and timing of the attacks. He referred to them as “the tragic events in Houston today and also in Michigan the day before” but later corrected himself.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday called on Trump to “stop your hatred, divisiveness and anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
“Mr. President: It’s not about what you say. It’s about what you do,” he said before repeating demands that Democrats made over the weekend to end the Senate recess so that they can take up a House-passed gun control bill.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota called Trump’s remarks a “dodge to avoid truth.” She noted there’s mental illness and hate around the world, but the U.S. “stands alone w/ high rate of gun violence. When someone can kill 9 people in a minute, that gun should never have been sold.”
She also said on Twitter that Trump had told her at a public meeting he’d take action after a deadly school shooting in Parkland Florida, but “then he met with NRA and he caved.”