While some Democratic presidential candidates are condemning President Donald Trump as a racist following the El Paso, Texas, shooting, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, took a different tone.
Asked during an interview Thursday with conservative radio host John Fredericks whether she thinks Trump is a racist, Spanberger said she was unsure.
“I can’t make that judgment one way or the other,” Spanberger said. “I think he says things that hurt people. I think he says things that divide a community, I think he says things that I wish he would not say. But I don’t know the man and I want to believe that there is goodness in everyone. I want to believe the best intentions in everyone.”
Spanberger’s comments are in marked contrast with some of her party’s 2020 presidential contenders.
The gunman who killed 22 on Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso targeted Hispanics and reportedly had used anti-immigrant rhetoric that mirrored that used by Trump, prompting rebukes of the president from candidates such as Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom called Trump a “white supremacist.” Former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the president has “embraced a political strategy of hate, racism and division.”
The Texas gunman reportedly wrote in a manifesto that his views predated Trump’s presidency.
Spanberger added: “I truly, truly hope that perhaps this shooting in El Paso has been a wake-up call for [Trump] to change some of the rhetoric, to be more purposeful in what he says, and to recognize that his words, more than anyone else in the world, his words have a significant power. And I don’t think that he’s been using the power of his words in a responsible way at times.”
She later tweeted to Fredericks to say that Trump “has frequently made racist statements and stoked division in our communities with hurtful, bigoted, and incendiary language.”
In the radio interview, Spanberger also called out Democrats, saying Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas should not have tweeted names of Trump campaign donors in an attempt to shame them.
“I am disappointed by the rhetoric that I hear across the spectrum, on my side of the aisle, on the Republican side of the aisle,” Spanberger said.
In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Spanberger said she wanted to make clear that she was not equating any actions by Democrats to the actions of the president.
“Trump’s comments which are blatantly racist are not the same as lack of professionalism among Democrats,” she said.