Mr. Trump has stigmatized Mexicans since the day he announced his candidacy for president, and has spoken as though all Muslims are dangerous. He denounced Latino migration as “an invasion of our country,” demonizing undocumented immigrants as “thugs” and “animals.” At a rally in May in Panama City Beach, Fla., he asked, “How do you stop these people? You can’t.” Someone in the crowd yelled back one idea: “Shoot them.” The audience of thousands cheered — Trump smiled. Shrugging off the suggestion, he quipped, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.” When avowed white supremacists marched in Charlottesville in August 2017 and one of them drove his car into a crowd, killing a peaceful protester, Heather Heyer, Mr. Trump condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” as though others besides the white supremacists were to blame.
Mr. Trump wrote in January on Twitter, “More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted invasion of illegals through large Caravans into our country.” Mr. Trump also wrote last November that “the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it.” Before opening fire in El Paso and killing 22 innocent people, the 21-year-old alleged shooter wrote, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Mr. Trump said in July, “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was, and I don’t mean that in a positive way.” The shooter wrote, “The natives didn’t take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.”
The president’s words have wide and deep consequences. When he smears all Latinos or Muslims, announcing walls or visa bans to keep them out; when he denounces the news media as “enemies of the people,” using Stalinist terms; when he says four congresswomen of color should “go back” to the countries they came from — all these spread fear, exclusion and hatred.
The president cannot be held responsible for every irresponsible act of citizens. But he can he held to account for propagating ugly and bigoted notions in his public remarks. This would be a good moment to change direction.