The overwhelming majority of patients at two El Paso hospitals who the White House had reached out to in preparation for President Donald Trump’s Wednesday visit said that they did not want to spend any time with the President, an individual who had been briefed on the matter tells CNN.
The source confirmed the Washington Post report that not one of the eight patients still being treated at University Medical Center wanted to meet with the President, so administrators brought back two patients who had already been discharged who expressed a willingness to meet with the President.
Almost all of the patients at the second hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, declined to meet with Trump, the source tells CNN. The White House did not ultimately set up a visit to Del Sol, which is currently treating six patients from the shooting.
“We don’t want to speak on our patients’ behalf when families were grieving and patients were actively being cared for. We aren’t going to provide any additional information,” a spokesman for Del Sol Medical Center told CNN.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that Trump and the first lady were “received very warmly by not just victims and their families, but by the many members of medical staff who lined the hallways to meet them.”
“It was a moving visit for all involved,” Grisham added.
“This is a very sensitive time in their lives. Some of them said they didn’t want to meet with the President, some of them didn’t want any visitors,” the hospital’s spokesman Ryan Mielke said in a statement provided to the Post. He said two victims who had been discharged from UMC returned to the hospital with their families to meet with Trump.
CNN has reached out repeatedly Thursday to Mielke.
A hospital official familiar with the President’s trip to University Medical Center cautioned that some of those patients did not want to meet with anybody because of their current condition.
“Some people didn’t want any visitors. Some didn’t want to meet [Trump],” the official said, adding that the patients who survived the El Paso shooting are undergoing an enormous ordeal.
“The stories and retelling of what they experienced at that Walmart will chill you to your core and break your heart.”
The official confirmed that one of the two patients who were brought back to the hospital to meet with Trump was two-month-old Paul Gilbert who lost both his parents in the shooting. His relatives brought him back to the hospital and met with both Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
The official went on to say that there was a general assessment that there was “an absence of empathy” on Trump’s part. When asked whether that was a fair assessment, the official said that was “accurate.” Trump made other comments, like his remarks about former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the official said, that left the impression that the President was not as focused on consoling the patients as might be expected.
Pastor Michael Grady, the father of Michelle Grady, who was shot three times, told CNN that his daughter did not want to see the President. The family also refused to meet with Trump.
The White House posted a photo from his visit to UMC, showing Trump taking a photo with two men inside the hospital, with a caption saying, “President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit with victims of Saturday’s attack and their family members Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at the University Medical Center of El Paso in El Paso, Texas.”
Two men who raced to the scene, Jimmy Villatoro and Ray Garcia, also met with Trump. Villatoro told CNN he met with Trump because he wanted to “show everyone that we should be united as one,” and Garcia said he had no problem with Trump coming to El Paso.
The Trumps also visited the Miami Valley Hospital in Ohio on Wednesday, where victims were recovering from the Dayton shooting, but the press was not given access to cover the visit.
On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 people and injuring more than two dozen others.
Police say they believe the suspect had written a “manifesto” filled with racist language and hatred aimed at immigrants and Latinos. Within 13 hours of the El Paso shooting, another nine people were killed at a popular nightlife district in downtown Dayton, Ohio.
CNN’s Amanda Jackson, Emanuella Grinberg and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.