GOP Candidates and Elected Officials Are Embracing Same Deadly “Invasion” Lies as the El Paso Shooter
Washington, DC – Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Director for America’s Voice, has a new op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman highlighting how Republican candidates and elected officials like Gov. Greg Abbott are embracing the same “invasion” lies as the El Paso shooter, who three years ago this week killed 23 people at a Walmart.
The op-ed, “GOP campaigns on the rhetoric that led to El Paso carnage,” is timely due to the anniversary of the El Paso killings as well as the Dallas CPAC conference that featured Viktor Orban, Donald Trump and right-wing mouthpieces spouting these white nationalist “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracies.
Below, find key excerpts of Mario Carrillo’s Austin American-Statesman op-ed,”GOP campaigns on the rhetoric that led to El Paso carnage,” with the full version available online.
“Three years ago, on August 3, 2019, 23 people were murdered at a Wal-Mart in my hometown of El Paso. Before the shooting, the gunman posted a manifesto online that warned of an alleged “Hispanic invasion of Texas” as a motivation for his attack on the majority Latino border city. Unfortunately, this deadly, racist lie wasn’t condemned to the dustbin of history where it belongs. Instead, it has been embraced as an electoral message by leaders of the Republican party and our own governor in the years since.
Last month Gov. Greg Abbott claimed that migrants seeking asylum at the border are tantamount to an “invasion” and signed an executive order to this effect. He did this knowing the deadly consequences of legitimizing such rhetoric. The day prior to the El Paso shooting, Gov. Abbott had sent a fundraising letter that stated, “If we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands.” After the killings, Abbott acknowledged that “mistakes were made” and he pledged to be more responsible, noting: “I emphasize the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.”
Yet now, running for re-election, Abbott is choosing to echo the ideas that inspired the gunman who attacked El Paso, and ideas that have inspired other violent attacks in our country as well. In the process, he threatens to again put a target on the backs of Americans because of the color of their skin or the accent they might speak with.
Unfortunately, Governor Abbott is not an outlier in the Republican Party, either in Texas or across the country. At America’s Voice, we have been closely tracking Republican candidates’ electoral messaging and are disturbed to find that the once fringe white nationalist talking point is now standard fare for GOP candidates.
As outlined in a new report, the America’s Voice ad tracking project has identified 546 pieces of political messaging that employ ‘white replacement’ or ‘invasion’ in the 2022 cycle, including 334 tweets for the first six months of this year, 121 different paid political ads in this cycle, and 91 campaign emails. The subtext is not subtle — the dangerous “other” is invading us so they can replace us and must be stopped.
These ads come from GOP incumbents, candidates at all levels and also political committees like the Republican Governors Association (RGA). As news outlets have noted, several Republican leaders, like House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, have adopted this language, while others, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have refused to denounce it when given the chance.
This rhetoric has a demonstrated body count and not just in El Paso. “Invasion” and “white replacement” themes were chanted in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017, posted online before a man murdered 11 in a Pittsburgh synagogue, believed by those who attacked the U.S. Capitol in 2021, and cited by the gunman who killed 10 people in Buffalo in May.
The dangers from the GOP’s embrace of “replacement” and “invasion conspiracies” are many, including: inspiring other white nationalist terrorists to attack those they’ve been told are threats; dehumanizing migrants and asylum seekers and the communities that support them as enemy combatants; and, in the longer term, destabilizing American democracy through the myth of an organized force of illegitimate votes, potentially creating the pretext to deny the results of unfavorable election outcomes and employing a range of voter suppression tactics.”