US President Donald Trump and his wife have been accused of using a baby orphaned in the horrific El Paso shooting as a "pawn".
The controversy began yesterday after First Lady Melania Trump posted a photo of herself holding two-month-old Paul Anchondo on Twitter.
The US President posed with a wide grin and a thumbs up next to his wife and the child, whose parents Andre and Jordan Anchondo were gunned down in a Walmart store in Texas last weekend, reports news.com.au.
The attack left 22 dead and is considered to be a hate crime, with 21-year-old gunman Patrick Crusius allegedly confessing to the crime and telling police he had deliberately targeted people of Mexican descent.
The picture immediate sparked outrage on Twitter, where the "political photo op" has been variously described as "sick", "disgusting" and "repugnant".
Many social media users have slammed the couple's insensitivity given the tragic situation, and many also linked the shooter's anti-Mexican rampage to Mr Trump's own divisive foreign policy and criticism of immigrants.
"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," Twitter user Greg Pinelo posted.
"People are being murdered, why are you #DonaldTrump using survivors for photo-ops??"
Jules Morgan questioned, while Frank Lynch wrote: "Those are the most grotesque staged pictures."
Writing for The Atlantic, reporter Graeme Wood summed up the problem with the El Paso photo by comparing the snap with a famous 2016 photo of Donald Trump grinning and giving a thumbs up as he digs into a taco bowl.
"First there are the smiles, so chipper in the aftermath of mass murder," Mr Wood mused.
"For some reason, this Trump smile calls to mind the one in his famous tweeted portrait in which he's eating a taco bowl ("I love Hispanics!") served by Trump Tower Grill.
"Then there is the thumbs-up, also present to signal approval of the taco bowl, and in this case to signal approval of what, exactly? The narrow survival of the infant? The heroism of the hospital staff and first responders who cared for the wounded? Somehow neither of these possibilities seems quite right, and contemplation has brought me no closer to a better answer. I do not imagine that Trump is applauding the slaughter. But few gestures are appropriate for both a taco bowl and the death of a baby's parents."
The baby's mother, Jordan Anchondo, died while shielding her newborn son with her own body, while father Andre was also killed after throwing his body over his wife and child.
The couple also have a six-year-old daughter who was not present during the massacre.
Paul was grazed by a bullet and suffered broken fingers during the shooting, but had been released from hospital before his relatives brought him back to meet the first couple.
Despite the backlash, Paul Anchondo's uncle Tito Anchondo defended the picture.
"I think people are misconstruing President Trump's ideas. My brother was very supportive of Trump," he told NPR.
Meanwhile, Jordan Anchondo's sister paid tribute to her heroic sacrifice.
"(Paul) pretty much lived because she gave her life," Leta Jamrowski told The Associated Press.
The Trumps met Paul Anchondo and several of his relatives during a visit to El Paso in the wake of the attack.
But during the visit, Mr Trump did not visit any of the eight survivors who remain in hospital, with five turning down the offer, while the rest were either too injured or could not speak English, The Guardian reports.
According to NBC News, unsealed court documents reveal the El Paso shooter admitted to specifically targeting people with Mexican backgrounds.
An arrest warrant written by El Paso police Detective Adrian Garcia states: "Agents and police officers at the intersection then observed a male person (defendant) to exit out of the vehicle with his hands raised in the air and stated out loud to the agents 'I'm the shooter' … The defendant stated his target were 'Mexicans'."
Most of the victims had Spanish last names, and the overwhelming majority of El Paso's population is of Hispanic descent.