The suspected El Paso shooter tried to distance himself from Trump — but the similarities between Trump’s rhetoric and his are obvious
- An online post that authorities think was written by the El Paso, Texas, gunman directly mentions President Donald Trump, denying that the person’s anti-immigrant views were shaped by the president.
- “My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president,” the post said.
- Observers, however, have drawn parallels between the post’s language and Trump’s, such as a penchant for depicting immigration to the US as an “invasion.”
- The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, on Sunday rejected the idea that the president had given succor to white nationalism.
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In seeking to learn the motivation behind Saturday’s mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, authorities quickly highlighted a manifesto thought to be posted by the gunman on a messaging board long favored by white nationalists.
The author of the document, which was posted to 8chan shortly before the shooting that left 20 people dead and dozens injured, declares “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Authorities identified the suspect, who has been arrested, as a 21-year-old named Patrick Crusius. They are treating the case as one of domestic terrorism.
The manifesto cites as inspiration the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which holds that shadowy elites are seeking to replace white people with nonwhite migrants.
In the document, there is one person the author seems keen to distance himself from: President Donald Trump.
“My ideology has not changed for several years,” the text said. “My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president.
“I [am] putting this here because some people will blame the President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case.
“I know that the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric.”
The author of the text appeared to anticipate the political fallout of such an attack, which seemed prescient after Democratic presidential candidates began condemning Trump for his rhetoric on immigration.
To be sure, despite the apparent attempt to distance the author’s views from Trump, there were clear similarities between some of the language in the document and some of the president’s language.
The document was littered with references to immigration as an “invasion.” The author painted a picture of a nation where migrants and automation had ousted white Americans from their jobs.
Natalie Martinez, a researcher on online extremism for the liberal group Media Matters for America, tweeted that the president’s rhetoric to supporters played on the same fears seen in the document.
A search she conducted of Facebook’s online ad archive found that Trump had run 2,200 Facebook ads since May 2018 describing immigration as an “invasion.”
It’s not just in Facebook messages but in public speeches at rallies that Trump has described migration to the US as an invasion, saying at a rally in Macon, Georgia, in November: “You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion! That is an invasion!”
At a May rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, he shrugged off a supporter’s shouted suggestion that migrants should be shot.
“Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement,” Trump quipped.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights nonprofit, also drew a direct link between the president’s rhetoric and the views espoused in the manifesto.
“What Trump has done since the day he started his campaign on that escalator in New York and talked about Mexicans as ‘rapists,’ is that he’s emboldened white supremacists because he has legitimized their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and o