On Sunday morning, Dee Margo, the mayor of El Paso, Texas, joined the CNN show State of the Union to speak about the tragedy his city had just endured: a mass shooting the day before in a Walmart that killed 22 people and injured at least 26 others.
“It was an evil perpetrator, from outside of El Paso,” Margo told the host, Jake Tapper, referencing the fact that the alleged shooter had traveled from the Dallas area to carry out the murders. “And I do not believe an El Pasoan would have ever, ever done anything like this. It is not reflective of our nature and our culture.”
Later in the interview, Tapper asked about the racism of the screed the alleged shooter posted online before carrying out the attack. “What do investigators know right now about that document and its hateful message?”
“I have not heard anything updated—I have no updates on that,” Margo replied. “I glanced at it. If he in fact did write it, he’s just an evil person.”
At another point in the interview: “We still have a lot of evil in this world. And he’s representative of that,” Margo said. At another: “I’m focusing on El Paso. There’s evil in this world, and it’s unfortunate.”
There is evil in the theological sense; there is evil in the quotidian sense. The brand of evil invoked on Sunday, however, by this politician who was so reticent to talk about politics, was something else entirely: This was evil as a talking point. The El Paso mayor likely made his CNN appearance running on little sleep, after an intensely difficult day. But in his answers to Tapper’s questions, Margo adopted a revealing refrain: Questioning the causes of the murders, he suggested, was the wrong approach.