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Wednesday
Aug072019

President Donald Trump mocks Beto O'Rourke's Hispanic nickname ahead of visit to El Paso

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump chose the night before his visit to El Paso to honor the victims of a mass shooting -- targeted due to their Mexican heritage -- as the opportunity to mock Beto O'Rourke's Hispanic nickname.

Trump sent a tweet just minutes before midnight about the presidential candidate, saying, "Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O'Rourke, who is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him, and is now even more embarrassed polling at 1% in the Democratic Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!"

O'Rourke's birth name is Robert, but he was nicknamed "Beto" as a child by his parents since he has the same name as his grandfather. The former congressman is Irish, but his ancestors settled in El Paso. "Beto" is a common Spanish nickname.

It's also not the first time the president has called O'Rourke "phony" for using the Spanish nickname despite being of Irish heritage.

Trump, while campaigning for Cruz in October 2018, also called O'Rourke a "stone-cold phony named Robert Francis O'Rourke."

O'Rourke quickly responded to Trump's tweet, saying, "22 people are dead in my hometown after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I."

Trump's tweet targeting O'Rourke's nickname comes just hours before he visits the city scarred by a mass shooting that killed 22 people. The alleged shooter, Patrick Crusius, told law enforcement he wanted to kill as many Mexicans as possible, according to sources, and also wrote a "manifesto" filled with anti-immigrant themes.

O'Rourke has minced no words in blaming Trump for the shooter's actions. He offered a profanity-filled tirade against Trump when asked by CNN whether the president could "make this any better."

"You know the s--- he's been saying. He's been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals," O'Rourke responded. "He's not tolerating racism, he's promoting racism. He's not tolerating violence, he's inciting racism and violence in this country."

Trump's tweet is also in direct opposition to words he has spoken since the shooting.

Just one day earlier, in a nationally televised message, the president said, "Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside -- so destructive -- and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love."

Trump's reference to when he "trounced" O'Rourke is unclear, but may refer to dueling rallies the two held simultaneously on Feb. 11 in El Paso. Trump's campaign has still not paid the bill for that visit.

Many locals and politicians have opposed Trump's visit to El Paso on Wednesday. Rep. Veronica Escobar, who replaced O'Rourke as congresswoman in the district, is among those who said she will not participate in Trump's visit.

Escobar tweeted, "I have publicly said he has a responsibility to acknowledge the power of his words, apologize for them, and take them back because they are still hanging over us. I asked for a call so I could say this to him over the phone and ask for a dialogue that could lead to healing. I was told that @realDonaldTrump is 'too busy' to have that conversation."

El Paso County Commissioner David Stout told ABC News the visit from Trump was "throwing salt" in a "gaping wound."

"I don’t plan to see him," Stout said on ABC News Live's "The Briefing Room." "I think that this community is still in a lot of pain. There’s a gaping wound that’s still open here."

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