A photo of Donald Trump and his wife Melania broadly smiling and giving a thumbs up while holding a baby orphaned in a recent mass shooting has sparked debate.
One opponent accused the couple of using the two-month-old baby as a “prop”, while the infant’s uncle defended the US president.
Andre and Jordon Anchondo were shot dead in Saturday’s attack at a Walmart store as they reportedly shielded their child, who suffered broken fingers during the attack.
The attack in El Paso, Texas, took place 13 hours before another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.
The two shootings claimed 32 lives in total and came as America was still reeling from a gun attack which left four dead at a garlic food festival in California a week before.
Mr Trump’s controversial photo was taken on Wednesday at the University Medical Center of El Paso as he met with first responders, medical personnel and victims from the attack.
The president and his wife had travelled up earlier in the day from a similar event in Dayton.
Media were blocked from both hospital visits and the image was posted on Twitter by the first lady.
The baby’s uncle, Tito Anchondo, and aunt are also featured smiling in the photo.
Criticism of the image grew over the following days, with Democratic strategist Greg Pinelo writing a widely shared post, saying: “This is a photo of Trump grinning while Melania holds a baby orphaned by the shooting. A baby who was taken from home and forced to serve as a prop at a photo-op for the very monster whose hate killed her/his parents.”
This is a photo of Trump grinning while Melania holds a baby orphaned by the shooting. A baby who was taken from home and forced to serve as a prop at a photo-op for the very monster whose hate killed her/his parents.
I would need 280,000 characters to say how furious I am. pic.twitter.com/4umSc9BQHu
— Greg Pinelo (@gregpinelo) August 9, 2019
However, Mr Anchondo, who described himself and his late brother as Trump supporters, told the Washington Post he felt consoled by the president’s visit and denied that Mr Trump was there “pushing any kind of political agenda.”
Mr Anchondo said he had received death threats, saying: “We should be coming together as a country at this time instead of threatening each other with hate messages.”
The Washington Post reported that the hospital reached out to the Anchondo family after none of the other shooting victims being treated would meet the president.
The row comes as the suspected El Paso gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, has confessed to deliberately targeting “Mexicans”, according to a police affidavit released on Friday.
The affidavit said Crusius waived his right to remain silent after he was taken into custody and told detectives he entered the Walmart with an AK47 and multiple magazines.
Since the attack at the supermarket chain, Walmart have removed video game signs and displays that depict violence from stores nationwide but are continuing to sell guns.
“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week,” Walmart spokeswoman Tara House said in an email to Associated Press.
Meanwhile, on Friday police brought terrorist threat charges against a man, 20, who walked into a different Walmart store wearing body armour and carrying a loaded rifle and handgun to test his right to bear arms.
Dmitriy Andreychenko filmed himself walking through the store in Springfield, Missouri.
He did not fire any shots and was arrested after he was stopped by an armed off-duty firefighter at the store.
“I wanted to know if Walmart honoured the Second Amendment,” a police statement quoted Andreychenko as saying.
His wife told police that she warned him it was not a good idea. She added she felt he was immature.
Source: SKY NEWS