HOUSTON — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke claims the perpetrator of last month's mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, was "inspired to kill by our president."

O'Rourke made the comment during his opening statement in the Democratic debate Thursday.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh replied on Twitter that O'Rourke is "as desperate as he can be."

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The shooter killed 22 people, many of them Latino, at a Walmart store on Aug. 3 and is believed to have written a manifesto expressing racist and anti-immigrant sentiments. The author of the manifesto insisted his opinions "predate Trump and his campaign for president."

But the words echoed some of the views Trump has expressed on immigration, Democrats and the media.

Election 2020 Debate Beto O'Rourke
Andrew Yang, left, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, right, listen to former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, center, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP