Lightfoot calls Trump on 'racist dog whistle'

Pritzker accuses president of inaction, Durbin pushes Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused President Trump of inspiring recent mass shootings by “blowing every racist, xenophobic dog whistle.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused President Trump of inspiring recent mass shootings by “blowing every racist, xenophobic dog whistle.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Illinois politicians offered harsh criticism of President Trump in the wake of the mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

According to a story in Tuesday’s Chicago Sun-Times, both Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid blame for the attacks at the White House, at very least for the racist tone on race relations set by the president.

“What he’s been doing is blowing every racist, xenophobic dog whistle,” Lightfoot said. “When you do that — when you blow that kind of dog whistle — animals come out.”

Pritzker wasn’t quite as confrontational in making public statements Monday, but he agreed that Trump had “created an environment in which people have felt that it’s OK to attack people of color and immigrants in particular.” He decried the administration’s inaction, saying, “The president seems to like to pretend that he’s going to do something about it, and then he does nothing or reverses himself on it.”

Trump has repeatedly referred to an “invasion” of immigrants at the border with Mexico, and the online shooter made reference to such an invasion in posts online before the Saturday shooting spree at an El Paso Walmart. Nine others died in a shooting in Dayton.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago blamed the availability of assault weapons, but also Trump in a statement issued Tuesday.

“The mass murder targeting Latinos in El Paso wasn’t spontaneous,” he said. “The attack was the result of uncontrolled access to assault rifles combined with white-supremacist ideas being reinforced by President Trump himself. The attack was the result of racial hatred and rampant gun violence in America. This is a fight for who we are as a people.

“Trump has laced his speeches and tweets with hate-filled lies, negative stereotypes, and outright attacks on Latinos, Muslims, women, African Americans, Jews, and people with disabilities,” Garcia added. “The president is enabled by Republicans in Congress who support his hate speech by repeating the words or saying nothing.

“Many of us have warned that Trump’s words would incite violence and they have. Domestic terrorists have committed hate crimes with increased regularity in public spaces including a synagogue in Pittsburgh, a food festival in Gilroy (Calif.), and a Walmart in El Paso. The El Paso shooter used language repeated by the president — describing Latino immigrants as ‘invaders.’”

Garcia called on the U.S. Senate to pass “common-sense gun-safety bills,” but also said, “Trump and his allies must immediately stop stoking fear and division, even though they gain politically from hatred.”

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson likewise urged the Senate to pass gun control, and blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for the lack of action. “Leader McConnell should either allow a vote on lifesaving gun-safety legislation or resign, immediately, derelict in his duty to protect American lives,” she said. “Because of his inaction, malice, and apathy, Mitch McConnell is the greatest threat to the safety of America’s families.”

“It’s long past time to call this threat what it is,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin tweeted Monday. “White supremacy is the most dangerous form of domestic terrorism threatening our nation. If we aren’t willing to confront this threat as such, these attacks will not stop. Inaction is unacceptable.”

Durbin used the controversy to repeat his call for Congress to pass his Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, resubmitted in March. Calling it “the only legislation pending in the Senate to combat white-supremacist violence,” he tweeted, “This is the most serious domestic terrorism threat we face. Enough is enough.”

Durbin added that he had pressed U.S. Attorney General William Barr to “repudiate President Trump’s view that white nationalism is not a growing threat, and to rescind the Trump administration’s outrageous decision to stop tracking white-supremacist violence as a category of domestic terrorism.”

Trump most infamously blurred lines by saying there were “good people on both sides” at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., two years ago. Durbin also pointed to how the Trump administration stopped tracking what the FBI had labeled “white-supremacist incidents,” instead lumping them together with incidents prompted by what Durbin labeled “so-called ‘black identity extremists’” under the heading of “racially motivated violent extremism.”

“It has been more than three months since I (sent) a letter to Attorney General Barr asking what specific steps the Justice Department is taking to combat white-supremacist violence,” he added. “I still have not received a response.”

Durbin was joined by U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield in calling for a crackdown on white-sumpremacist groups in March.

Later Tuesday, Lightfoot took issue with tweets posted by the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who compared the shootings in El Paso and Dayton with the weekend’s gun violence in Chicago — and in the process got some facts wrong on the Chicago incidents. Lightfoot said: “That’s the danger of trying to govern via tweet.”

The president, to his credit, said all the right things in a scripted speech Monday after the weekend shootings, calling them crimes “against all humanity,” although he did blunder in suggesting the Ohio incident took place in Toledo.

Trump was charged with overt racism recently when he attacked four Congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — by saying they should “go back” to “the totally and crime-infested places from which they came,” language the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has labeled borderline “unlawful conduct.”