Barack Obama has called on Americans to reject language from any of their leaders that feeds hatred or normalises racism, after 31 people died in mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Although the former US president did not name anyone, the BBC points out that his “rare comments” came after Donald Trump sought to “deflect” criticism that his “anti-immigrant rhetoric” had “fuelled violence”. Obama’s words were a clear “swipe at Trump”, Buzzfeed says. In his statement released on Twitter, Obama said: “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalises racist sentiments; leaders who demonise those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.”
He continued: “It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much – clearly and unequivocally.” The Atlantic praised Obama for rising to the moment, saying he “still sounds like a president”. This is not the first time that the Democrat has criticised his White House successor. During a speech at the University of Illinois last year, he referred to Trump’s response to the deadly attack during a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. “We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathisers. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”
In July, Obama tweeted a link to an article written by 149 black staffers who worked on his administration, criticising Trump after he said congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib should “go back” to their countries. Obama released his latest statement after Trump responded to the mass shootings over the weekend. Speaking at the White House, the US president said “Mental illness and hate pull the trigger, not the gun.” He continued: “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
He called for enhanced co-operation between government agencies and social media companies, reforms to mental health laws and the end of the “glorification of violence”. He said the internet and “gruesome” video games promote violence in society, saying: “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.” Responding to the president’s statement, CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf wrote that Trump blamed “everything but his own” words for hate in America.