The 44 names Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) tweeted late Monday have at least two things in common: They’re all constituents in his district, and they all donated the maximum amount to President Trump’s campaign this year.
The congressman and brother of presidential hopeful Julián Castro said the people listed — including retirees, business owners and other individuals whose names are public record — were “fueling a campaign of hate.”
“Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump — the owner of @BillMillerBarBQ, owner of the @HistoricPearl, realtor Phyllis Browning, etc.,” Castro wrote. “Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as invaders.”
Castro, who also serves as chairman for his brother’s presidential campaign, spent much of Tuesday deflecting intense criticism from GOP lawmakers and others. They contended that he was “targeting” the listed donors by tweeting their names to his thousands of followers, a serious accusation in the aftermath of two weekend mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead and many more wounded.
“This is grossly inappropriate, especially in the wake of recent tragic shootings,” replied Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “This win-at-all-costs mentality, publicly targeting an opponent’s supporters, and encouraging retaliation is dangerous and not what Texans have a right to expect from their members of Congress.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) offered similar sentiments, and the latter accused Castro of doxing his own constituents.
Shortly before the alleged gunman in the El Paso massacre began shooting, authorities say, he posted a manifesto warning of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” For Castro, the operative word there is “invasion” — a word Trump has also used repeatedly to describe immigrants who enter the United States through the southern border.
Trump “cannot play the blame game,” Castro tweeted Tuesday. “The El Paso terrorist manifesto included language that is eerily similar to the language the President has used to dehumanize and demonize Hispanic immigrants in this country. That violence just spilled over.”
Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in a Tuesday evening tweet that Castro was “inviting harassment” of the private citizens listed.
“At worst, he’s encouraging violence,” Murtaugh wrote. “This is a target list.”
In a separate statement to The Washington Post, Murtaugh said that “this naming of private citizens and their employers is reckless and irresponsible. He is endangering the safety of people he is supposed to be representing. No one should be targeted for exercising their First Amendment rights or for their political beliefs. He should delete the tweet, apologize, and his brother’s campaign should disavow it.”
Murtaugh also said he reported Castro’s tweet for harassment using Twitter’s reporting feature.
Castro appeared Wednesday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where he clarified his missive: It wasn’t meant as a boycott or to target people but to draw attention and awareness to community members who are Trump donors.
“The manifesto that [the El Paso shooter] wrote could have been written by the people that write Trump’s speeches,” Castro said, calling his social media post a “lament” about supporting an administration that spends donations on “Facebook ads talking about how Hispanics are invading this country.”
“Unless you support the white nationalism and the racism that Donald Trump is paying for and fueling then I hope that you, as a person of good conscious, would think twice about contributing to his campaign.”
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, significantly escalated conservative criticisms Wednesday on “Fox and Friends,” suggesting Castro’s tweet was equivalent to the Dayton shooter’s “hit list.”
By Wednesday evening, President Trump weighed in by comparing Castro to his twin brother. “I don’t know who Joaquin Castro is other than the lesser brother of a failed presidential candidate (1%) who makes a fool of himself every time he opens his mouth," Trump wrote. “Joaquin is not the man that his brother is, but his brother, according to most, is not much. Keep fighting Joaquin!”
Within 10 minutes, Trump had deleted and re-posted the Tweet after he incorrectly misspelled Castro’s first name as “Jauquin.”
Among other GOP critics: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who in 2017 was shot by a gunman targeting Republicans practicing baseball.
“People should not be personally targeted for their political views. Period,” Scalise said Tuesday evening on Twitter. “This isn’t a game. It’s dangerous, and lives are at stake. I know this firsthand.”
When asked for comment on the Monday night tweet and the accompanying criticism, a spokesman for Castro referred to the congressman’s Twitter feed. In several tweets Tuesday, Castro said the names he posted were publicly accessible and that his tweet was not a “call to action.”
He also referred to recent reports that the Trump campaign had paid for thousands of ads on Facebook that use the word “invasion” in reference to immigration.
“Donald Trump has put a target on the back of millions,” Castro said in one response. “How about I stop mentioning Trump’s public campaign donors and he stops using their money for ads that fuel hate?”