Saying that President Trump has “fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Democratic presidential primary front-runner Joe Biden on Wednesday sought to directly link the president to the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.
“The danger that Donald Trump and the alt-right pose to this nation isn’t hypothetical,” Biden said.
The charges by the former vice president – during a speech in Burlington, Iowa – came on the same day that Trump was traveling to El Paso to visit with law enforcement, first responders and victims of the shooting, which left at least 22 people dead. The president also stopped in Dayton, Ohio, the site of another mass shooting this past weekend.
The suspect in the El Paso massacre allegedly wrote a white nationalist manifesto ahead of the shootings.
Biden, pointing to the president’s divisive immigration rhetoric at campaign rallies and on Twitter, asked “how far is it from Trump’s saying this 'is an invasion' to the shooter in El Paso declaring 'his attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?’”
Answering his question, the former vice president said: “not far at all.”
And he charged that “in both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation."
Biden’s comments come as the president faces condemnation by Democrats and some Republicans for his controversial language, which some charge contributed to the El Paso shooting. But Trump has hit back, arguing that his critics have ignored the Dayton shooter's apparent liberal views.
"They're trying to make political points," he said Wednesday of his critics.
And asked specifically about Biden's comments as he departed the White House Wednesday morning, Trump called the former vice president "incompetent."
"Joe Biden has truly lost his fastball, that I can tell you," he added.
During Biden's speech, Trump tweeted: "Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy. It will be over for them, not to mention the fact that our Country will do poorly with him. It will be one big crash, but at least China will be happy!"
Responding to Trump's tweet, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield fired back "glad you're watching. He's talking to you."
Biden, asked after his speech about Trump's tweet, told reporters the president should "get a life."
On Monday, the president urged Americans to condemn “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy” in an address on national television. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America."
But Trump didn’t mention the rising tide of anti-immigrant rhetoric. He also called for new measures to address mental illness and target violent video games rather than calling for stricter firearms laws to stem widespread gun violence.
Since he launched his presidential campaign in late April, Biden has made Trump’s rhetoric on race a centerpiece of his White House bid as he’s framed the contest as a battle for the “soul of the nation.”
In his Wednesday speech, Biden said “how far is it from the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville – Trump’s 'very fine people' -- chanting 'You will not replace us' – to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh saying Jews 'were committing genocide to his people?' Not far at all.”
He charged that “Trump offers no moral leadership; no interest in unifying the nation, no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least…Instead, we have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division.”
And Biden highlighted that past presidents – from Republican George W. Bush to Democrat Barack Obama – have “stepped up” during massacres that have tested the country.
“Our president isn’t up to the moment,” Biden spotlighted before adding that Trump “lacks the moral authority to lead.”
With his speech, Biden joins a slew of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders who are blasting Trump’s language in the wake of the weekend’s mass shootings.
Sen. Cory Booker also tied Trump to the shootings as he gave a speech on gun violence and what his presidential campaign called “the rising tide of hatred and white nationalism in America."
"The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this past weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger," Booker highlighted as he directly slammed the president. "It was sowed from the highest office in our land who we see in tweets and rhetoric, hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country."
Booker spoke at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., site of a 2015 shooting in which nine black congregants were killed by a white shooter.