Democratic 2020 presidential front-runner Joe Biden says Donald Trump "has fanned the flames of white supremacy" that led to the deaths of 22 innocent people in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, over the weekend.
A white nationalist manifesto apparently written by the killer, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, lamented the "Hispanic invasion of Texas", deploying a word the Trump campaign has used more than 2,000 times in scaremongering adverts on Facebook.
The president visited El Paso on Wednesday despite being bitterly criticised by another 2020 candidate, Beto O'Rourke, and Democratic congresswoman Veronica Escobar, both of whom said he was not welcome in the grieving town because of his racist rhetoric.
"I would prefer that the president not come to El Paso."
Beto O'Rourke responds to Pres. Trump's scheduled visit t… https://t.co/rgK48TPo0t
The last time Trump was there, for a MAGA rally in February this year, he attacked immigrants as "murderers" and left an unpaid policing bill of $569,204.63 (£468,350).
This time, he arrives to a hostile reception after telling O'Rourke to "be quiet" in his criticism.
Now Biden is staking his claim to lead the chorus of Democratic condemnation - joining the likes of Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - having already told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday that Trump uses the language of white nationalism:
This is a president who has said things no other president has said since Andrew Jackson. Nobody's said anything like the things he's saying
Look at the way he talks about Muslims. Look at the way he talks about immigrants. Look at the way he talks about people of colour.
He talks about them almost in subhuman terms...
There's no question that his rhetoric has contributed to at a minimum - at a minimum - to dumbing down the way in which we as a society talk about one another.
"There is no question it's a dangerous game" Pres. Trump is playing with divisive rhetoric around race, former VP… https://t.co/0GgqIHQIw4
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@Anderson Cooper 360°)
Biden took things a step further on Wednesday.
Barack Obama's former vice-president told his supporters in in Burlington, Iowa:
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?'
Not far at all.
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.
In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.
We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation.
We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division.
We’re living through a rare moment in this nation’s history. Where our president isn’t up to the moment. Where our president lacks the moral authority to lead. Where our president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington.
In the same speech Biden also expressed cynicism towards Trump's White House statement on Monday regarding the attacks. Adding:
His vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week I don't believe fooled anyone.
Biden notes similarities between El Paso shooter's manifesto & Trump's rhetoric, says Trump "has fanned flames of w… https://t.co/oHG1qdbnsm
Trump has of course denied that his inflammatory language is responsible for the weekend's atrocity in El Paso or a second attack in Dayton, Ohio, in which nine more people died.
In reaction to Biden's speech he responded on Twitter in a typically childish and Trumpian manner, saying simply:
Watching Sleepy Joe 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 one big crash, but at least China will be happy.
In fact, he told the press corps as he left for Texas on Wednesday - with jaw-dropping chutzpah - he believes his rhetoric actually "brings people together".
That pronouncement followed a national address from the White House on Monday in which he blamed mental health laws, social media and violent video games for the killings in El Paso and Dayton but stopped short of making a serious commitment towards restricting access to lethal firearms.
Biden is one of 24 candidates seeking to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump at the ballot box next November and launched his campaign this spring with a video explicitly condemning Trump's comments about the deadly violence at the alt-right "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville two summers ago, in which anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer lost her life when she was run over by a neo-Nazi agitator.