In the wake of the El Paso mass shooting in which the suspect echoed Donald Trump‘s racist “invasion” rhetoric in his manifesto, the president’s surrogates appear to be going out of their way to deny his culpability in inspiring a shooting that targeted Latinos in a southern border town.
Although the president has time and time again disingenuously referred to Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty as gang members and human traffickers set to destroy the United States, no one from the White House or the Trump campaign is particularly eager to own that fact when it comes time to answer for how Trump weaponizing racism and xenophobia factored into the deadly shooting.
Case in point, Trump 2020 campaign spokesperson Marc Lotter appeared on CNN on Tuesday, August 6, and tried to blame the cable news network of deceptively editing footage of a May 2019 MAGA rally in Panama City, Florida. In the clip, the president appears visibly amused by a supporter yelling “shoot them!” after Trump asked the crowd, “How do you stop these people?” In this instance, “these people” referred to undocumented immigrants entering the United States. Trump paused for a brief chuckle and then commented: “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement!”
The clip has received renewed scrutiny following the August 3 El Paso shooting.
When asked by CNN’s Jim Sciutto if that was an appropriate response from a sitting president, Lotter responded, “I think when you show the entire context, which you just mentioned, Jim, the president said that we’re not a country that uses weapons against people who are coming across our border illegally.” That is technically true, which Sciutto acknowledged, but doesn’t explain why the president looked so delighted when the rally attendee suggested border crossers be shot on sight.
“He laughed, Marc!” an exasperated Sciutto replied. “The president laughed!”
When Lotter tried to explain that the president was actually being “dismissive” of the notion of employing violence against immigrants, Sciutto reminded him once again that Trump laughed.
Watch the exchange below: