Trump boasts about crowd sizes to El Paso doctors as hospital official says president showed 'absence of empathy' during visit

'That was some crowd ... and we had twice the numbers outside,' president says

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 09 August 2019 17:24
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Donald Trump brags about crowd sizes during El Paso 'healing' visit

Donald Trump boasted about the crowd size at his February rally in El Paso, Texas while visiting a hospital in the area on Wednesday after a gunman killed 22 people at a local Walmart over the weekend.

The president can be seen making the comments in phone footage released shortly after his controversial visit to the diverse community, where he was met with protesters who urged Mr Trump to enact gun control reforms.

“I was here three months ago,” he said to medical staff and first responders at the hospital.

“That was some crowd,” he added, before chiding former Texas congressman and 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke. “And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, they said his crowd was wonderful.”

Mr Trump’s comments quickly sparked a backlash online and from at least one hospital official who told CNN the president displayed an “absence of empathy” during the visit.

The president’s latest trip to El Paso was one of two visits he made to communities mourning in the wake of mass shootings that gripped the country over the weekend.

While the Texas gunman reportedly posted an anti-immigrant manifesto to the online messaging channel 8chan before the shooting in El Paso, another gunman in Dayton, Ohio who opened fire on Sunday night in an area that’s popular for nightlife seemingly espoused left-wing views on social media platforms.

The White House did not allow journalists covering the president to follow him on his visit inside the El Paso hospital, but later posted its own video to Twitter showing him greeting the shooting victims and posing for photos with staff.

Mr O’Rourke responded to the president’s comments in a tweet, after previously suspending his campaign events to travel across his hometown of El Paso and mourn with community members.

“This community is focused on healing. Not hatred. Not racism. Certainly not crowd sizes," the former congressman wrote.

“Our community — and our country — will not be defined by @realdonaldtrump's smallness,” he added. “We will be defined by the love, compassion, and strength of El Paso."

Speaking with reporters before departing for a 10-day trip to his golf club n New Jersey, the president said there was strong support in Washington for common sense background checks for gun sales.

In a statement to CNN, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president and first lady were “received very warmly by not just victims and their families, but by the many members of medical staff who lined the hallways to meet them”.

“It was a moving visit for all involved,” she added.

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