Trump Condemns Racism And White Supremacy Following 2 Deadly Shootings

Aug 5, 2019
Originally published on August 5, 2019 6:16 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Saturday, a gunman in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people at a Walmart. Early yesterday morning, a shooter killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And today, President Trump addressed the nation.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are outraged and sickened by this monstrous evil, the cruelty, the hatred, the malice, the bloodshed and the terror.

CORNISH: Police are investigating whether the alleged shooter in El Paso was inspired by white nationalism and a hatred of Latino immigrants.

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TRUMP: In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.

SHAPIRO: That kind of language is out of character for this president. And here to talk about it is White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: First, what else did President Trump have to say this morning? And what kinds of steps did he suggest to possibly prevent future mass shootings?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, he gave several clearly scripted remarks. And as we know, there can be a big difference between Trump when he's scripted and when he's on Twitter or at a rally. This morning, Trump said the United States needs to focus on mental illness. He's also talking about so-called red flag laws that are designed to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.

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TRUMP: Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.

ORDOÑEZ: He also didn't talk about any bans on assault weapons, which is what many Democrats are calling for.

SHAPIRO: And he had suggested more aggressive steps on Twitter that he did not mention in the comments this morning.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, and that comes even though he tweeted a few hours before the speech that he wanted strong background checks for gun-buyers. He didn't mention any specifics on how those checks would work. He also talked about tighter controls on the Internet, social media and on violent video games.

SHAPIRO: As you've often seen in the past, Franco, when he gives these kinds of speeches from a teleprompter after a national tragedy, soon after, he will get on Twitter or go to a rally and revert to insulting people who he feel has wronged him. So how much value is there really in a speech like the one he gave this morning?

ORDOÑEZ: Yes, he's got a long track record of making formal statements on a teleprompter - when he was talking about Charlottesville...

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TRUMP: In Charlottesville, Va...

ORDOÑEZ: ...That are very unifying; they're also conciliatory...

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TRUMP: We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.

ORDOÑEZ: ...But then going back on them a few days later.

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TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don't have any doubt about it, either.

SHAPIRO: For the last few weeks, one of the top stories out of this White House has been President Trump's racist comments towards people of color. And Democratic presidential candidates have argued that this president is part of the problem. Let's listen to what just a few of them have said since these shootings over the weekend.

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PETE BUTTIGIEG: There is a measure of responsibility that you just can't get away from when you have case after case...

KAMALA HARRIS: We also have to acknowledge that we have a president of the United States who uses the microphone in a way that is about sowing hate and division in our country.

ELIZABETH WARREN: The president has embraced white nationalists. He has encouraged white nationalists.

SHAPIRO: That was Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Others have made similar remarks. Franco, is there a risk that the president's comments will make a situation like this worse?

ORDOÑEZ: It's true that President Trump has used incendiary language, especially about immigrants and people of color. It goes back to the first days of his campaign when he rode down the golden escalator of Trump Tower. He used very angry language when describing particularly Mexicans.

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TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

ORDOÑEZ: And he's really never toned down that language ever since. We've seen it again and again. We see it when he talks about the caravan of migrants coming to the United States.

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TRUMP: At this very moment, large well-organized caravans of migrants are marching toward our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. It's like an invasion.

ORDOÑEZ: We saw it when he didn't stop the chants about send her back when talking about a minority Congresswoman.

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UNIDENTIFIED CAMPAIGN RALLY ATTENDEES: (Chanting) Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back.

ORDOÑEZ: Earlier this year, he was at a rally in the Florida Panhandle...

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TRUMP: But how do you stop these people? You can't. There's no...

ORDOÑEZ: ...When someone yelled out that shooting migrants was a way to stop them.

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TRUMP: That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.

ORDOÑEZ: Even in formal Oval Office settings, he's focused on that same message that immigrants are murderers.

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TRUMP: Over the last several years, I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers - so sad, so terrible.

ORDOÑEZ: And in the past, when racism and white nationalism have come up, Trump has downplayed the threat. This past March, when he was asked directly, do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat, his answer was, I don't really.

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TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.

SHAPIRO: Franco, you've given us such a long list of examples. What does the White House say when you present them with all of these quotes from the last couple of years?

ORDOÑEZ: One thing that Trump and others in the White House say - it's the shooters who are responsible for their actions, not Trump's words. This week, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said critics are trying to score political points off the tragedy.

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MICK MULVANEY: I get the fact that some people don't approve of the verbiage the president uses. I get that, all right? People are going to hear what they want to hear. My guess is this guy's in that parking lot in El Paso, Texas, in that Walmart doing this even if Hillary Clinton is president.

ORDOÑEZ: Look; the White House and the Trump administration are in a bind in some ways. When Trump doesn't respond to attack, he's accused of looking the other way or being sympathetic with the assailants. But even when he criticizes extremism, as he did this morning, he's accused of not going far enough.

SHAPIRO: People have criticized the president's tone on these issues since before he started running for president. At some point, is it just naive to imagine that he's going to be a different person than the person he has shown himself to be?

ORDOÑEZ: Pushing the envelope has worked for President Trump. It wasn't long after he launched his campaign that he was at the top of the Republican polls. His supporters always talk about how he tells it like it is. And truth be told, Trump likes to keep both supporters and opponents riled up. And if you think about the recent tweets about the four minority Congresswomen or the tweets about Congressman Elijah Cummings and the, quote, "rodent-infested" city of Baltimore, we see it again and again.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez speaking with us from the White House.

Thanks a lot, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.