Ten Democratic presidential candidates spoke to CNN in the aftermath of a gut-wrenching 24 hours – after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday left 20 dead and a separate rampage hours later killed nine more in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday.
2020 hopefuls former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar all weighed in.
CNN asked them to respond to the mass shootings, including their thoughts on whether Trump’s rhetoric played a role in facilitating recent gun violence. Here is what they said.
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke
When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether he believed Trump was a white nationalist, O’Rourke responded, “Yes. I do.”
The El Paso, Texas, Democrat also referenced Trump’s record of insulting Mexicans as “rapists” and describing asylum seeking migrants as an “infestation.”
“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,” he said.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
When asked whether Trump was a white nationalist, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told Tapper that “at best (Trump is) condoning and encouraging white nationalists.”
The mayor said Trump “made his career, politically, on demonizing Mexicans and now we’re seeing reports that the shooter yesterday had his goal as killing as many Mexicans as possible.”
“It is very clear that this kind of hate is being legitimized from on high,” Buttigieg added. “And if that were not true, the President would be acting and speaking very, very differently than what he’s doing right now.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
Booker told Tapper that “because this was a white supremacist manifesto,” he wanted “to say with more moral clarity that Donald Trump is responsible for this.”
Trump, Booker said, “is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry,” is “failing to condemn white supremacy and see it as it is,” and “has failed to do anything significant to stop the mass availability of weapons to people who intend to do harm.”
Former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
When asked whether he thought there was a link between the President and the weekend’s violence, Castro said, “I believe that President Trump is making it worse.”
While he stressed that “the person that is responsible for the shooting is the shooter,” Castro also slammed Trump as sowing division for political gains.
“Sometimes, for some people, and I believe this goes for the President, division is a political strategy,” he said. “Bigotry is a way of stirring some people up so that they’ll vote for you – that’s dangerous.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sanders said he does think Trump is a white nationalist, adding, “All of the evidence out there suggests that we have a President who is a racist, who is a xenophobe, who appeals, and is trying to appeal, to white nationalism.”
“It breaks my heart to have to say that this is the person we have who is President of the United States,” Sanders said.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan
When asked whether he thought Trump was a white nationalist, Ryan told Tapper: “Well, the white nationalists think he’s a white nationalist. And that’s the crux of the problem. They support him.”
“You cannot not connect the president of the United States and his rhetoric,” Ryan said. “I read (the shooter’s alleged) manifesto this morning a couple of times and the language in there is so similar to the kind of language that you hear at a Trump rally, you see in his tweets.”
On Monday, Ryan told CNN’s Erica Hill on “New Day” that Trump “has to bear some responsibility for creating a culture in the United States around race-baiting, around demonizing people of color, around demonizing immigrants.
“When you read that manifesto, it looked like it could have been written by a Trump speechwriter,” Ryan said.
California Sen. Kamala Harris
Harris stopped short of calling Trump a white nationalist, but stressed that the President’s rhetoric has negative consequences.