The mayor of El Paso, Texas, said President Donald Trump called him “a RINO” – an acronym for “Republican in name only” – in a private meeting during the President’s visit to the city in the wake of a mass shooting that left 22 dead.
Speaking with “PBS Frontline” in an interview that aired Wednesday, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said Trump made the jab during a private conversation when Margo pushed back on Trump’s “misinformation” about crime in El Paso.
“He said ‘you’re a RINO.’ I said ‘no sir, I’m not a RINO.’ I said, ‘I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by (the Texas) attorney general, and that’s all I did,” Margo said.
He said that Trump “just kind of grinned” in response.
Margo told PBS he was trying to push back on Trump’s claim that El Paso had a lot violent crime before a border barrier was erected – an issue the two have traded barbs over before. In February, Margo told CNN Trump was “wrong” to connect El Paso’s drop in crime to a border barrier that isn’t “continuous.”
“The barrier went up, and the fence went up, and it’s only about 10 miles long,” Margo said. “And the total fencing in the El Paso sector is about 78 miles. And it’s not continuous. Now it’s part of the process for border security, but it’s not the total panacea.”
Margo told PBS, “We are one of the safest cities in the country, but we have been before the fence went up.”
Police say they believe the suspect in the El Paso shooting – which took place in a Walmart – had written a document filled with hatred aimed at immigrants and Latinos, warning of a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
Margo told CNN’s Jake Tapper after the shooting “no one is prepared for this.”
“It was an evil perpetrator from outside of El Paso and I do not believe an El Pasoan would’ve ever, ever done anything like this,” he said. “It is not reflective of our nature and our culture and we’re a unique region.”
CNN’s Eli Watkins, Amanda Jackson, Emanuella Grinberg and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.