The brother of a couple who was fatally shot in El Paso, Texas, over the weekend has defended a photo the president and first lady took with the couple’s 2-month-old orphan during their visit to an El Paso hospital on Aug. 7.
The photo in question, which was shared on Melania Trump’s Twitter account on Aug. 8, shows the first lady holding the infant while President Donald Trump stood next to her with a smile and thumbs up. The post was captioned: “I met many incredible people in Dayton, Ohio & El Paso, Texas yesterday. Their communities are strong and unbreakable. @potus and I stand with you!”
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 8, 2019
The post garnered extensive attention as well as anger from people who called Trump’s facial expression and thumbs-up inappropriate, and declaring the event was used as a “photo-op.”
Now Tito Anchondo, the orphan’s uncle, has spoken out, telling The Washington Post that he hopes people will stop politicizing his family’s tragedy. He said that he chose to take his nephew to the University Medical Center to meet with the president and the first lady.
Anchondo, whose brother and sister-in-law, Andre and Jordan Anchondo, lost their lives as a result of the El Paso massacre, said he wanted to tell Trump about his family’s grievous pain, according to the outlet.
“He was just there as a human being, consoling us and giving his condolences,” he said.
He said he didn’t believe Trump was at the hospital to push any political agenda, adding that it was just “a private conversation between human beings.” Anchondo told the outlet he felt consoled after the conversation he had with the president but did not go into details as to what was discussed.
Anchondo told NPR in a separate interview that his family is Republican conservatives and his brother was supportive of Trump.
“I want to see if he’s genuine and see if my political views are right or wrong. And see if he feels maybe some kind of remorse for statements that he’s made. I just want to have a human-to-human talk with him and see how he feels,” Anchondo told the public radio broadcaster.
Trump and Melania visited hospitals in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7 to meet with victims and families, medical staff, and law enforcement officers. The press was barred from both events, because the trip was about meeting with victims and wasn’t meant to be a photo-op, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
Following both events, photos and videos distributed by the White House show the president holding hands with victims, speaking with hospital executives, and posing for photos with uniformed law enforcement officers.
“They’ve been stopping between rooms to thank the hardworking medical staff. Very powerful moments for all!” Grisham wrote on Twitter.
On Aug. 4, Trump harshly condemned both massacres, proposed measures to prevent future attacks, and urged Americans to unite against the ideologies espoused by the killers. The Dayton killer reportedly was a follower of socialism, Satanism, and the extremist group Antifa.
Sister of El Paso Couple Posts an Emotional Message
On Aug. 6, the sister of the Anchondo couple, Vibora (Deborah) Anchondo, posted a heartfelt message on Facebook expressing frustration over how Democratic politicians in El Paso are politicizing the shooting and casting blame on President Donald Trump.
“It’s such a shame that two of our local politicians (I refuse to say their names as they don’t deserve it) are saying that our President is not welcome on Wednesday,” Anchondo wrote without identifying the politicians.
“I cannot believe how these monsters are using the tragic event to push their political agenda,” she added.
She continued: “My brothers [sic] body was still laying at Walmart on Saturday night when they decided to make this into a political issue and push their agenda by blaming our President for this. Rather than focusing on the situation and the individual who destroyed the lives of many, these evil people selfishly turned this into a political war.”
“I’m equally as angered by those two as I am with the person who took my brother and his wife from me, typing this I think I feel more animosity towards those two evil politicians,” she added.
Following the two shootings, former and current Democratic officials expressed their disapproval over Trump’s plans to visit El Paso.
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Aug. 5 that it was “probably unfair” to connect a rally Trump held in El Paso to the shooting. She also claimed that the president needs to “do a little self-reflection” on how he acts at the rallies he holds.
She then said that the president is not welcome in the city.
“It is shocking to me that [Trump] is so utterly self-aware,” Escobar told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. “And this is why, from my perspective, he is not welcome here. He should not come here while we are in mourning.”
“I would encourage the president’s staff members to have him do a little self-reflection. I would encourage them to show him his own words and his actions at the rallies because we’re not going to get past this until there’s acknowledgment from the very top that we need to heal, that this whole country is hurting, that there has been bigotry and racism and hatred that has been stoked at all levels,” she added.
“And as the president, he has the most significant authority and responsibility to show this country, to lead this country into healing. And now is the time, and he needs to accept responsibility, everyone does, for what has gotten us to this point.”
Similarly, presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who was a former Texas congressman, told reporters after the El Paso shooting that Trump “is a racist and he stokes racism in this country.”
On Aug. 5, O’Rourke told the El Paso Times that Trump “has no place here.” The president “should not be in El Paso,” O’Rourke added.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.