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Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke place blame for El Paso tragedy — but not on killer or even firearms

'He is a racist and he stokes racism in this country...'

Win McNamee/Getty Images (left), Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (right)

Just hours after 20 people were murdered in El Paso, two prominent Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Beto O'Rourke — placed blame for the tragedy, but not on the killer or even firearms, the typical gun control scapegoat.

Instead, Sanders blamed the National Rifle Association and O'Rourke laid blame at the feet of President Donald Trump.

What did O'Rourke say?

Speaking with reporters in El Paso late Saturday, O'Rourke, who lives in the city, was asked by a reporter if responsibility "falls at the feet of [Trump] and his rhetoric and ... alleged racist tweets."

"Yes," O'Rourke replied.

"We've had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years during an administration where you've had a president who's called Mexicans 'rapists' and 'criminals,' though Mexican immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than those born here in the country," O'Rourke added. "He has tried to make us afraid of them."

"He is a racist and he stokes racism in this country, and it does not offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence," he continued.

The former Texas congressman went on to claim there are "strong indications" the killer was "inspired by [Trump's] hatred" of people in El Paso, which is majority Hispanic.

What did Sanders say?

In a statement released by his campaign, Sanders blasted the NRA as a "right wing extremist organization" and urged politicians to stand up against the gun lobby.

"After each of these tragedies the U.S. Senate, intimidated by the power of the NRA, does nothing. This has got to change. We need a president and a Congress that listen to the American people, not the ideology of a right wing extremist organization. The time is long overdue for Congress to stand up to the NRA and pass the common sense gun safety legislation the American people want," he said.

One last thing…
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