As President Donald Trump visited the two American cities touched by mass shootings, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday both accused the president of fueling violence with racist rhetoric.
Speeches from the two would-be challengers created split-screen moments as Trump met privately with victims and first responders in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.
"You reap what you sow," Booker said Wednesday morning, hours before he was scheduled to appear in Philadelphia.
The "anti-Latino, anti-immigrant" shooting "was sowed by those who spoke the same words the El Paso murderer did: warning of an 'invasion.' It was sowed by those who spoke of an 'infestation' of disgusting cities, 'rats and rodents' talking about majority minority communities ... It was sowed from the highest office in our land where we see in tweets and rhetoric hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country."
Booker spoke in a Charleston, S.C. church where a white supremacist murdered nine black worshipers in 2015.
He and Biden warned of rising violence in America driven by racism, accusing the president of failing to denounce such hatred, and of encouraging it.
"It's not enough to say 'I'm not a racist,'" Booker said. "Because there is no neutrality in this fight. You are either an agent of justice or you are contributing to the problem."
Biden also noted the El Paso killer's manifesto echoed Trump's rhetoric about immigrants as "invaders." He recounted Trump's equivocation after the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., tying those comments to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year.
"With both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation," Biden said in an afternoon speech in Burlington, Iowa. Later, he said "our president has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation."
He also brushed aside the president's Monday speech, in which Trump read a call for unity from a teleprompter. Biden said Trump's "low energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week, I don't believe fooled anyone."