Donald Trump used his flight time between visiting the cities of two mass shootings to attack his critics and boast on Twitter about how victims had shown him “love, respect & enthusiasm”.
Mr Trump was greeted by protesters as he visited the hospitals where victims were treated, who accused him of stoking tensions with his anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric.
As he flew between Ohio and Texas on Air Force One, Mr Trump lashed out at Joe Biden, the former vice president, who had given a speech denouncing the president for “fuelling a literal carnage” in the US.
Mr Trump tweeted to say the speech was “Sooo Boring!” and warned “The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks” if Mr Biden became the next US president.
At least 200 protesters gathered outside Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, blaming Mr Trump’s incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the US and demanding action on gun control.
Mr Trump also received mixed praise from local Democratic politicians.
Democratic senator Sherrod Brown said: “He was comforting. He did the right things and Melania did the right things. It’s his job to comfort people.” But he went on to say he was “very concerned about a president that divides in his rhetoric and plays to race in his rhetoric”.
“I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton,” added Mayor Nan Whaley. However, she said she was glad Mr Trump had not stopped at the site of the shooting: ”A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive, and that’s the last thing we need in Dayton.”
Mr Trump, responding from aboard Air Force One, described his visit as “warm & wonderful” with “tremendous enthusiasm & even love”, but went on to criticise the two Democrats for their comments.
“Then I saw failed Presidential Candidate (0%) Sherrod Brown & Mayor Whaley totally misrepresenting what took place inside of the hospital,” he tweeted.
“Their news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place with those incredible people that I was so lucky to meet and spend time with. They were all amazing!”
Mr Trump also took time out from posting about his visits and his political opponents to deride the media and promote the right-wing One America News Network, tweeting: “Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN!”
He posed with medical staff and law enforcement officials, in which he could be seen giving the “thumbs up” gesture, and tweeted: “The people I met in Dayton are the finest anywhere!”
In El Paso, Mr Trump’s motorcade passed protesters holding “Racist Go Home” signs.
Beto O’Rourke, a potential Democratic 2020 presidential rival and El Paso native who has denounced Mr Trump as a racist instigator, said Mr Trump had “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible” and thus “has no place here”.
Later, on the flight home from El Paso, Mr Trump sent out a tweet targeting Joaquin Castro, the Democrat brother of presidential hopeful Julian Castro, who had shared a list of 44 names in his district of Texas who had donated the maximum amount to Mr Trump’s campaign this year.
“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,” he tweeted.
“Joaquin is not the man that his brother is, but his brother, according to most, is not much. Keep fighting Joaquin!”
He sent out a second tweet blasting the media: “The Fake News worked overtime trying to disparage me and the two trips, but it just didn’t work.
“The love, respect & enthusiasm were there for all to see. They have been through so much. Sad!”
He followed that with another post attacking his political opponents: “The Dems new weapon is actually their old weapon, one which they never cease to use when they are down, or run out of facts, RACISM! They are truly disgusting!”
Mr Trump said he would be “putting out a list of all people who have been so (ridiculously) accused!”
Democrats have argued Mr Trump’s anti-immigrant and racially charged language at rallies and on Twitter has fanned white nationalist sentiments across the US.
The massacre in the predominantly Hispanic city of El Paso is being investigated as a hate crime and act of domestic terrorism, and the FBI has said the Dayton attacker also explored violent ideologies.
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