Former President Barack Obama on Monday released a pointed statement condemning “language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders” that “normalizes racist sentiments” following two mass shootings in the US in the span of 13 hours — one of which involved a white supremacist suspect.
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people,” Obama said.
“It’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally,” he added.
The statement comes after a shooter opened fire Saturday at an El Paso, Texas, shopping center, killing at least 22 people. Hours later early Sunday morning, a shooter opened fire in a popular downtown area of Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people.
A 21-year-old white supremacist is in custody in the Texas domestic terrorism case. The shooter in Ohio was killed by police and a motive is not yet known in that case.
In his statement, Obama added, “We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”
President Donald Trump in a tweet on Monday suggested tying immigration legislation to strengthening background checks even as the alleged shooter in El Paso, Texas, is believed to have authored a racist, anti-immigrant document targeting Hispanics.
Trump did not indicate in his tweets on Monday morning if he supported a sweeping gun control bill that passed the House with bipartisan support in February that requires universal background checks but has not been considered by the Senate.
In a televised address later Monday, Trump called on the nation to “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy” but stopped short of acknowledging his own divisive and racist rhetoric. He did not mention background check legislation or tie any gun action to immigration.