Donald Trump speaks in front of a portrait of George Washington.
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House August 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump Blames Mass Shootings on Mental Illness, “the Media,” & Video Games

But refuses to acknowledge his own role.
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The United States saw two acts of domestic terrorism this weekend, with mass public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, less than 24 hours apart. This comes just one week after another mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. Once again, reactions to these events are starkly divided between Republican lawmakers offering thoughts and prayers, and pretty much everyone else calling for substantial gun reform.

In a series of tweets and a short speech this morning, Donald Trump talked about who and what he sees as being to blame for these shootings.

First, the actual good part: For what might be the first time, Trump unequivocally condemned “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” saying, “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.” It was a point that was tweeted out by his daughter last night.

The response to those tweets was not entirely supportive–not because people disagreed with the sentiment, but because they’re tired of Ivanka’s feckless complicity. Similarly, it should be encouraging to finally hear Trump finally call these white male suspects what they are: terrorists, a term he generally reserves for black and brown and especially Middle Eastern perpetrators of violence. But it’s not.

In talking about how these men were “consumed by racist hate,” Trump mentions that one left a manifesto filled with racist ideologies but refuses to acknowledge that much of it–especially as it refers to an “invasion”–directly mirrors Trump’s own language.

His condemnation of white supremacy was also undercut by how incredibly stilted and awkward the speech was. I don’t think it could have sounded more forced if he’d tried. It wasn’t until the last minute or so that he started to get into his usual sort of loose, ad-libbing rhythm, around when he started talking about the death penalty and calling suspects “mentally ill monsters.”

That’s also around the time he mistakenly sent his condolences to the people of Toledo, a city about 150 miles from Dayton, where the second shooting took place. So it’s hard to believe anything about this was sincere.

Trump also didn’t stay on that subject long, moving from how domestic terrorists are being radicalized in the “dark recesses of the internet” to the other “perils of the internet and social media,” including “human trafficking, illegal drug distribution, and so many other heinous crimes.” All of those are problems that need serious attention, but to lump them together like that does a disservice to all of those issues.

He also blamed “the glorification of violence in our society,” and specifically, “the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Yes, that’s the president blaming video games for mass shootings because we apparently still haven’t let that argument go, despite the fact that there are plenty of other countries where the same video games are just as popular, but they don’t have to deal with gun violence in nearly the same way.

From there, Trump moved on to another scapegoat: mental illness. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said, even though the gun is a pretty important part of that equation.

Over on Twitter, he also blamed “the media” for the shootings.

There are certain things the media is responsible for, like perpetuating false narratives around shooters after the fact. There is often a need to depict these white men as “lone wolves” or “troubled” or victims of bullying–to find some explanation for why they could do these horrible things. In searching for that narrative, they often ignore the realities of white male violence. That is a problem we see in the media coverage of these atrocities.

Trump, though, is essentially trying to tie a direct line from CNN’s coverage of his administration to mass shootings, which is lunacy.

He also implied that there is a link between the shootings and immigration, calling for stronger background checks and “marrying” that with “desperately needed immigration reform.”

Basically, Trump had a whole host of ideas of who to blame, but he’s not going to change any of his own behaviors. He called for bipartisan cooperation but also said that he is “open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work,” with the emphasis making it clear that he doesn’t believe any Democratic lawmakers’ ideas would. This reads as a doubling down of his usual tactic of blaming Democrats for refusing to cooperate, when to him, cooperation and bipartisanship only mean capitulating to whatever he proposes.

Trump has given no indication that he actually cares about solving America’s epidemics of domestic terrorism and gun violence. If he did, he would support real mental health initiatives, not just for the “monsters,” but for the traumatized survivors of these shootings and the families of victims. He would not be threatening to tie gun reform to immigration bills. He would not dog whistle about “culture change” in the same speech where he finally recognizes these shooters as domestic terrorists. But he doesn’t care.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.