While 2020 Democratic presidential primary contender Bernie Sanders said that he does not believe President Trump wants “to see somebody get shot,” the Vermont lawmaker did say Sunday that Trump “creates the climate” for events like last weekend’s mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
“I think that what he has created in this country with his incredible rhetoric, his racist rhetoric, where he calls Mexicans rapists and criminals, where he almost condones in a rally when someone was attacking somebody,” Sanders said of Trump during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “He creates a climate where we are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes in this country.”
Sanders added: “He is creating the kind of divisiveness in this nation that is the last thing that we should be doing…He creates the climate, but do I think that he wants to see somebody get shot? Absolutely not.”
Trump’s rhetoric and hardline stance towards illegal immigration has come under amplified attacks since last weekend’s shooting in El Paso, where 21-year-old Patrick Crusius killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others. Crusius said that he was targeting Mexicans and, in an online screed, reportedly wrote about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Crusius, however, noted in his manifesto that he held these racist views long before Trump launched his 2016 election campaign with a major focus of curbing illegal immigration and building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Speaking earlier on “Face the Nation,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said that assigning the blame for these mass shootings on anyone besides the perpetrator was “a very slippery slope.”
“The president’s no more responsible for that shooting as your next guest, Bernie Sanders, is for my shooting,” Scalise said.
Scalise was severely injured when a gunman opened fire on a group of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., in June 2017. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, was a left-wing activist who had volunteered for Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
Sanders’ condemned the shooter’s “despicable act” on the Senate floor that same morning.