Former president Barack Obama spoke out Monday about the two deadly mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, calling on Americans to reject political leaders who spew racist, hateful, and dehumanizing rhetoric.
"We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize 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," Obama said Monday in comments posted on social media. "Such language isn't new — it's been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world."
While Obama didn't name names, it was inferred that his statement was about President Donald Trump, whose rhetoric has vacillated over the years from dog whistles to full-on racist and anti-immigrant attacks brewing fear, animosity, and division.
The former president's comments come after the suspected El Paso terrorist posted a four-page manifesto that mirrored Trump's position and comments on immigration, including claims of an "invasion."
"It has no place in our politics and our public life," Obama said. "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."
Former and current presidents have withheld from criticizing one another in the past, but both Obama and Trump have bucked the tradition.
During a speech at the University of Illinois last year, Obama criticized Trump, referencing the current president's response to the deadly attack during a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, in which Trump called people marching white supremacists "very fine people."
"We're supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we're sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers," Obama said last September. "How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?"
Obama in July also tweeted a link to an op-ed written by 149 black staffers who worked on his administration, criticizing Trump after he said congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib should "go back" to their countries.
Three of the women were born in the US, and they are all US citizens.
In his statement Monday, Obama called for new restrictions on guns.
"Every time this happens, we're told that tougher gun laws won't stop all murders; that they won't stop every deranged individual from getting a weapon and shooting innocent people in public places," Obama wrote. "But the evidence shows that they can stop some killings. They can save some families from heartbreak."
The Obama administration supported gun control legislation following a series of high-profile mass shootings that occurred during his tenure as well, including Sandy Hook in 2012, the San Bernardino attack in 2015, and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016.
"We're not helpless here," Obama wrote. "And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening."