Transcript: Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke on "Face the Nation," August 4, 2019

O'Rourke links Trump's rhetoric to shooting

The following is a transcript of the interview with former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas that aired Sunday, August 4, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MAJOR GARRETT: Former Democratic congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke joins us from El Paso. Beto, briefly, you've been there a short while, what have you learned and how long will you stay in El Paso?

BETO O'ROURKE: I just came home yesterday and got to spend time with some of the victims and their families at University Medical Center, not too far from where we are at the scene of the shooting right now. Extraordinarily, courageous people and just an amazing, strong community that's coming together in the face of this tragedy. So, very proud of El Paso at this moment, though deeply saddened and heartbroken by- by what has taken place in- in this community. I'm- I'm going to stay here through the course of the day, continue to visit with families, be at a vigil here tonight and do everything I can to ensure that El Paso comes back as strong as poss- as possible. But also to ensure that we do everything that we can to guarantee that this does not happen again going forward. And- and it has to go well beyond thoughts and prayers and even beyond sensible gun legislation like universal background checks, like ending the sales of weapons of war. This is really about hatred and racism and intolerance that continues to grow in this country. Hate crimes on the rise for each of the last three years, division being sown by this president's hatred being welcomed during his administration. All of us must stand up against this and for a much better, a much safer country.

MAJOR GARRETT: Are you saying President Trump is indirectly responsible for this?

O'ROURKE: I'm- I'm saying that President Trump has a lot to do with what happened in El Paso yesterday. Anybody who begins their campaign for the presidency by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. Anyone who as president describes asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border as an infestation or an invasion or animals. Anyone who describes those who do not match the majority of this country as somehow inherently dangerous or defective, sows the kind of fear, the kind of reaction that we saw in El Paso yesterday. So the answer, Major, is- is yes, but it is also something that is much larger than this president and persisted here before his administration. It's up to all of us to put an end to this racism and make sure that we don't just tolerate our differences, but as we've shown here in El Paso, we embrace them as the very source of our strength and our success. And yes also our safety and our security.

MAJOR GARRETT: You're no longer in Congress, but you have a voice. Should Congress come back to Washington and cancel the August recess to deal with this issue? 

O'ROURKE: Absolutely. You know we're- we're grieving here in El Paso. But- but our hearts are also with the people of- of Dayton, Ohio. Gilroy in- in California. All across this country in- in mass shootings like those that we saw here in El Paso and the shootings that have become so numbingly common, they don't even make the newscasts or the headlines of- of the daily paper happening one or two at a time. The fact that we will lose nearly forty-thousand of- of our fellow Americans this year and every year until we change course, demands an urgency that has been absolutely lacking from Congress. So let's follow the lead of-of  those students who are marching for our lives. Let's follow the lead of those moms who demand action. Let's follow the lead of those families here in El Paso who I've been listening to who demand the kind of change that we need. Congress should come back in session, pass legislation, the president should sign it into law. But then we must also acknowledge that it has to go beyond that. The kind of hatred and open racism that we're seeing in this country is having not just a corrosive result. It's- it's a deadly consequence. And we saw that on full display in El Paso yesterday.

MAJOR GARRETT: One last thing before I let you go, George P. Bush, the land commissioner in Texas, wrote on Twitter: "There have now been multiple attacks from self-declared white terrorists here in the United States in the last several months. This is a real and present threat." Your reaction?

O'ROURKE:  He's absolutely right. But he's got to take the next step and- and describe why that threat exists in this country. President Trump who called white nationalists and Klansmen and neo-Nazis "very fine people" after Charlottesville, who described the countries of Africa as *EXPLETIVE* nations, who said he wants more immigration from Nordic countries, the whitest places on- on the planet. The president not only tolerates, but invites the kind of racism and hatred that- that not only offends us, but- but changes who we are as a country and produces the kind of violence that we saw in El Paso.

MAJOR GARRETT: Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke. Thank you. We'll be back in a minute.