The role of rhetoric

Mike Pence follows Trump after he spoke about the mass shootings.
Vice President Mike Pence follows President Donald Trump as he walks off after speaking about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Monday in Washington.
Evan Vucci | AP Photo

When a gunman opened fire at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, killing 20 and injuring 26 others, many pointed to hate as the reason for the carnage. Prosecutors say they will treat the shooting as an act of domestic terrorist, based on the anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rant the shooter posted to an online site just minutes before he started shooting.

But residents of El Paso, a city that is more than 75 percent Hispanic, say were targets of rhetoric long before they were the targets of a shooter. The shooting reignited a national debate over President Trump’s language about an immigrant “invasion” and other statements about people of color that date back to the beginning of his campaign. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, said in a statement: “To pretend that [Trump’s] administration and the hateful rhetoric it spreads doesn’t play a role in the kind of violence we saw … in El Paso is ignorant at best and irresponsible at worst.”

Tuesday, Kerri Miller spoke with an expert who studies how words impact the larger conversation in America – and how the media can play a role in reigning in the rhetoric.


Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.