Hours before a Wednesday trip to El Paso, Texas, President Donald Trump responded to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's criticism of his visit by mocking his Hispanic nickname and telling the former congressman of the border city to "be quiet."
O'Rourke, along with some residents and local Democratic lawmakers, said Trump was not welcome in his hometown El Paso, and urged him to stay away.
"This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday's tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso," O'Rourke tweeted. "We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here."
Trump snapped back on Twitter, mocking O'Rourke's first name as "phony" and his standing in the Democratic presidential polls.
"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 by polling at 1% in the Democrat Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!” the president wrote on Twitter.
O'Rourke, whose full name is Robert Francis O'Rourke and goes by 'Beto,' a childhood nickname, hit back at Trump after his post, tweeting that “22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I,” he wrote.
Trump will travel Wednesday to El Paso after a stop in Dayton, where he will meet with first responders, survivors and victims' families, according to the White House. O'Rourke announced Tuesday he would attend a counter-rally dubbed the #ElPasoStrong event during the president's visit. He is also expected to to make an evening visit to a makeshift memorial outside the Walmart where a gunman killed 22 people.
In February, O'Rourke also held counterprogramming to a Trump rally in El Paso supporting a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The dueling events drew thousands for both political figures.
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O'Rourke has been critical of Trump in the wake of the Walmart shooting, blaming the president's incendiary immigration rhetoric for the violence in El Paso. An online screed investigators have attributed to the 21-year-old gunman rails against an influx of Hispanics into the United States using language that mirrors comments made by the president.
Critics of the president go as far as to say he helped create the hatred that made the shooting possible.
"He is encouraging this. He doesn't just tolerate it; he encourages it. Folks are responding to this. It doesn't just offend us, it encourages the kind of violence that we're seeing, including in my home town of El Paso yesterday," O'Rourke, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. ''He is an open, avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country. And this is incredibly dangerous for the United States of America right now."
Trump said Wednesday he doesn't think his rhetoric has contributed to violence and claimed it "brings people together."
Trump told reporters while leaving the White House on Wednesday to visit Ohio and Texas that he is "concerned about the rise of any group of hate," whether it's white supremacy, "any other kind of supremacy" or anti-fascist groups.
The attack in El Paso happened just hours before a gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and injuring more than two dozen people.