O’Rourke: Trump is distorting truth about El Paso ‘in the most racist terms’

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) called out President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE on Thursday for his characterization of O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, Texas, by using “the most racist terms” to “incite fear and paranoia.”

O’Rourke in an interview with The Washington Post was referring to Trump’s comments from his Tuesday night State of the Union address when he said El Paso was safer and had lower crime rates due to a border wall.

“Some people have used code words, some have come at it obliquely. He just full on, in the most racist terms, completely divorced from the truth or facts or reality or our experience here in El Paso, uses this to incite fear and paranoia and turn that to political gain,” O’Rourke told the Post, referring to Trump.

The former congressman and possible 2020 presidential candidate added that he thinks Trump “knows what he is doing.”

“I think there has been shown over many years great political reward for those who exploit this by stoking fear and anxiety, by lying to people about immigrants and the nature of the border and the safety and security that we have here," he told the Post.

O’Rourke, an outspoken Trump critic, is a native of El Paso and used to represent the district that encompasses the city.

O’Rourke, who has not yet decided if he will challenge Trump for the White House in 2020, advocates for comprehensive immigration reform and is opposed to a border wall. He stated on his 2018 Senate campaign website that the southern border with Mexico “has never been safer.”

Trump announced this week that he will hold his first rally of the 2020 campaign cycle in El Paso as he continues his push for a border wall.

Trump has repeatedly used the border city as an example for why walls work, citing crime statistics for El Paso that he claims show a drop in violent crime since the wall was constructed. 

The El Paso Times reports that the city’s violent crime rate from 2006 to 2011 increased by 17 percent. Construction on the border wall began in 2008. El Paso is also regularly listed as one of the country's safest cities with crime trending downward since the 1990s.