Beto O'Rourke Says Trump Inspired El Paso Gunman in Democratic Debate Opening Statement

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Beto O'Rourke

The third debate of the Democratic presidential primary is underway, with the top candidates sharing the debate stage for the first time on Thursday in Texas.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke claims the perpetrator of last month's mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, was "inspired to kill by our president."

O'Rourke made the comment Thursday during his opening statement at the Democratic debate. Later on, O'Rourke went after Donald Trump again, asserting, "We have a white supremacist in the White House, and he poses a mortal threat to this country."

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh replied on Twitter that O'Rourke is "as desperate as he can be."

The El Paso shooter killed 22 people, many of them Latino, at a Walmart store on Aug. 3 and is believed to have written a manifesto expressing racist and anti-immigrant sentiments. The author of the manifesto insisted his opinions "predate Trump and his campaign for president."

But the words echoed some of the views Trump has expressed on immigration, Democrats and the media.

The third debate of the Democratic presidential primary is underway, with the top candidates sharing the debate stage for the first time.

Ten hopefuls are meeting Thursday in Houston. Former Vice President Joe Biden is at center stage along with two of his closest rivals, progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The three have not been onstage together during previous debates, which were split over two nights. Tougher requirements to qualify for the debate stage winnowed the number of candidates this time, resulting in a one-night debate.

Also debating are Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Rep. O'Rourke; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; and businessman Andrew Yang.