Making his first formal remarks after the weekend mass shootings, President Donald Trump said Monday the U.S. was "overcome with shock, horror and sorrow" and that the nation must condemn "racism and white supremacy."
Trump said a "wicked man" went to a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in that mass shooting and said a "twisted monster" carried out the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, just hours later.
“These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation and a crime against all of humanity," Trump said.
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate," the president said. "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy."
President Trump: "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America" https://t.co/yYzXIN5Uub pic.twitter.com/SSQEF1B0En— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 5, 2019
While not proposing any major gun control legislation, he said the nation needs to strengthen mental health laws.
"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," he said.
"Today I am also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively..." the president added.
Trump said the country needs to put partisanship aside, saying it is "not up to mentally ill monsters, it is up to us."
"The perils of internet and social media cannot be ignored and will not be ignored," the president said, blaming "gruesome and grizzly video games" for the "glorification of violence in our society."
President Trump calls for "cultural change" following mass shootings: "We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grizzly video games that are now commonplace" https://t.co/yYzXIN5Uub pic.twitter.com/C7u2qImL4j— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 5, 2019
Television networks carried the president's remarks live but it was not a formal speech to the nation. Trump spoke before pool reporters and cameras from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, not the Oval Office. Vice President Mike Pence stood at his side.
The president did not repeat his suggestion about gun background checks that he tweeted about earlier Monday.
In those tweets, Trump proposed "strong background checks," perhaps, he said, tied to immigration reform.
In tweets earlier Monday morning, the president said, "We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain."
....this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
At the same time, Trump also blamed the news media for "the anger and rage that has built up over many years."
The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country. Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years. News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
Former President Barack Obama weighed in with a rare tweet that, while not mentioning Trump by name, reflected scathing criticism of his divisive rhetoric.
“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 subhuman, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people,” an excerpt from the lengthy tweet said.
Trump has threatened to veto two background check bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to consider them.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has demanded that McConnell call the Senate back from its August recess.
He fired off a tweet of his own Monday morning responding to Trump.
Instead of flailing around blaming everything under the sun, if the president is serious about “strong background checks” there’s one thing he can do:
Demand Sen. McConnell put the bipartisan, House-passed universal background checks bill up for a vote.https://t.co/owM8PlkEyX— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 5, 2019
It was unclear how either of the shootings were related to immigration reform, as Trump suggested.
Trump's acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, speaking on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, rejected claims from Democratic candidates and others that the president's harsh rhetoric on immigration played any role in the shootings.
The National Rifle Association applauded Trump's call Monday "to address the root causes of violence."
"The National Rifle Association welcomes the President’s call to address the root causes of the horrific acts of violence that have occurred in our country. It has been the NRA’s long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment," the group said in a statement