During a visit to the El Paso hospital treating victims of Saturday’s mass shooting, President Donald Trump praised medical staff for their response to the shooting and said “they’re talking about you all over the world.”
And then, he pivoted to talking about himself, talking up the crowd size that attended a rally he held in El Paso several months earlier and mocking the relatively small size of the crowd that joined presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman, to protest the rally, according to cell phone video posted online.
“I was here three months ago,” Trump is seen telling a group of what appear to be first responders and other officials at University Medical Center in the video.
“That place was packed. … That was some crowd. And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, they said his crowd was wonderful,” he said.
The interaction came on a day where Trump visited two cities grieving from recent mass shootings and spent time airing personal grievances about the coverage he received during the visits and leveling attacks at his critics, including several Democratic presidential candidates.
The overwhelming majority of patients at two El Paso hospitals the White House had reached out to in preparation for Trump’s Wednesday visit said that they did not want to spend any time with the President, an individual who had been briefed on the matter tells CNN.
The source confirmed the Washington Post report that not one of the eight patients still being treated at University Medical Center wanted to meet with the President, so administrators brought back two patients who had already been discharged who expressed a willingness to meet with him.
Almost all of the patients at the second hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, declined to meet with Trump, the source tells CNN. The White House did not ultimately set up a visit to Del Sol.
A spokesman for Del Sol Medical Center told CNN, “We don’t want to speak on our patients’ behalf when families were grieving and patients were actively being cared for. We aren’t going to provide any additional information.”
“The President and First Lady met with victims of the tragedy while at the hospital,” said press secretary Stephanie Grisham when asked for comment. “I’d also point you to the video the White House posted this evening, which shows the President and First Lady being received very warmly by not just victims and their families, but by the many members of medical staff who lined the hallways to meet them. It was a moving visit for all involved.”
Trump traveled to El Paso in mid-February of this year for his first political rally of 2019 where he made his case for a border wall before a friendly crowd of supporters at the County Coliseum following the 35-day government shutdown. O’Rourke held a counterprotest in a nearby park. Trump has still not paid more than $500,000 in police and public safety fees his campaign owes to the city of El Paso from that rally.
O’Rourke ripped the President’s comments in a tweet Thursday afternoon.
“This community is focused on healing. Not hatred. Not racism. Certainly not crowd sizes,” he tweeted. “Our community — and our country — will not be defined by @realdonaldtrump’s smallness. We will be defined by the love, compassion, and strength of El Paso.”