Monday 26 August 2019

Barack Obama tells Americans to reject leaders that 'feed climate of fear'


Former president Barack Obama released a statement following two mass shootings in the US Photo: Michael Sohn
Former president Barack Obama released a statement following two mass shootings in the US Photo: Michael Sohn

Elana Schor

Barack Obama has urged Americans to "soundly reject language" from any leader that "feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalises racist sentiments".

He did not mention US President Donald Trump directly in his first public statement since a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, but he reminded Americans that "we are not helpless" in the face of a spate of mass shootings.

Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio (AP)
Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio (AP)

"Until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening," the former president wrote.

A shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday killed 22 people, and a second shooting outside a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, early on Sunday killed nine people.

The suspect in the El Paso massacre posted a racist, anti-immigrant screed shortly before the attack, investigators say. The motive of the Dayton gunman, who died in the attack, is not yet clear.

Read more here: Joe Biden accuses Donald Trump of ‘using the language’ of white nationalism

CCTV captures the moment Patrick Crusius enters the Walmart with an assault rifle. Picture: AFP
CCTV captures the moment Patrick Crusius enters the Walmart with an assault rifle. Picture: AFP

Mr Obama, like many presidents before him, has exercised caution as he avoids pointed criticism of his successor, but his comments left little doubt that his urging to reject the normalisation of racism referred to Mr Trump, who has spoken disparagingly about immigrants, calling them rapists and murderers, and has hit out at an "invasion" at the Mexico border.

Mr Trump has previously tempered his criticism of white supremacy, although he said in scripted remarks to the nation earlier on Monday that the nation "must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy". He also said he had directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism.

Read more here: Ohio killer compiled 'hit list' and 'rape list' of classmates when he was in high school

Mr Obama noted that the El Paso shooting followed a trend of "troubled individuals who embrace ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy".

U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks on August 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.
U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks on August 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.

He advised Americans to also denounce the language of "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 subhuman".

Such language has "been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history", he added, and has "no place in our politics and our public life".

Read more here: US mass shootings: Donald Trump says Americans must 'condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy'

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