Clinton, Trump Spar Over Orlando

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Photo: CNN

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Monday that LGBT people should support his proposal to ban Muslims from the U.S. because Islamic groups promote violence against gays.

“Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community,” said Trump, speaking on the campus of Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire June 13. He said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country—they enslave women, and murder gays. I don’t want them in our country.”

“America must do more – much more – to protect its citizens, especially people who are potential victims of crimes based on their backgrounds or sexual orientations,” Trump said.

In what is being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, American citizen Omar Mateen, 29, a security guard from Fort Pierce, Florida, entered an LGBT nightclub in Orlando at 2 a.m. Sunday and shot 102 people, killing 49 before police killed him. While Mateen called 911 during the attack and declared his allegiance with the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), President Obama said Monday there was not yet any “clear evidence” that the shooter was “directed externally” by any terrorist organization.

“It does appear that, at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL,” said the president, “but there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed…There is also no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot.”

Both Trump and Clinton delivered speeches Monday to address the implications of the Orlando attack.

Gregory Angelo, president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, said Trump’s speech was “historic” because it marked “the first time in history a Republican presidential nominee made a direct and explicit appeal to the LGBT community.”

“Only time will tell if that translates to actual votes,” said Angelo, “but, in key states that will be decided by slim margins, a few extra votes from LGBT Americans could make all the difference.”

Log Cabin Republicans has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate, and Angelo underscored that his group “opposes an outright ban on all Muslims simply because of their religion.”

While Trump’s speech argued that the attack on the Orlando nightclub Pulse was the result of a “dysfunctional immigration system,” Clinton blamed it on a failure to restrict the availability of assault weapons.

The gunman was able to shoot a large number of patrons at the Pulse by using an AR-15 assault rifle, a rapid-fire weapon developed for use by the military that can discharge up to 30 rounds per magazine clip. Federal law banned the sale of such weapons to civilians until 2004.

Noting that the shooter had been questioned by the FBI as a suspected terrorist, Clinton said, “If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked. And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show.”

“The terrorist in Orlando,” said Clinton, in a speech Monday, “targeted LGBT Americans out of hatred and bigotry. And an attack on any American is an attack on all Americans. I want to say this to all the LGBT people grieving today in Florida and across our country: you have millions of allies who will always have your back. And I am one of them.”

Trump said that Clinton “can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country who suppress women, gays and anyone who doesn’t share their views.”

“She can’t have it both ways,” said Trump. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them….Why does Hillary Clinton want to bring people here—in vast numbers—who reject our values? Immigration is a privilege, and we should not let anyone into this country who doesn’t support our communities – all of our communities.”

Clinton has expressed support for allowing 65,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. in an effort to help with alleviate “the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II.” President Obama has called for the U.S. to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Trump has likened Syrian refugees to a “Trojan Horse” and said the U.S. should not accept any.

The Orlando attack and the two major party candidates’ starkly different responses to that attack promise to ensure that immigration and gun control will be prominent issues in the presidential contest between Clinton and Trump. The attack will also likely focus continued attention to religious-based hostilities toward LGBT people.

Noting that the gunman appeared to have been “inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” President Obama said Monday that organizations like ISIL “target [] gays and lesbians because they believe that they do not abide towards their attitudes towards sexuality."

"Clearly there are connections between the attitudes of an organization like this and their attitudes towards tolerance and pluralism and the belief that all people are created equally," said Obama, in remarks to a White House pool reporter in the Oval Office. "There are connections between this vicious, bankrupt ideology and general attitudes towards gays and lesbians and, unfortunately, that's something that the LGBT community is subject to not just by ISIL but by a lot of groups…."

Numerous media outlets quoted Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, as suggesting his son had expressed hostility toward homosexuality and had been angered recently by seeing two men kiss. CBS News reported that Seddique Mateen had himself posted a video that showed him saying, “God will punish those involved in homosexuality.” But Seddique Mateen told CBS his son did not have the right to harm anybody.

A friend of the gunman told the Washington Post that Mateen was “quite religious” but never mentioned any allegiance to the Islamic State. The shooter’s former wife told reporters Mateen was not a devout Muslim. But the FBI investigated Mateen’s connection to a man at his mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, who executed a suicide bombing in Syria.

Media also reported patrons of the Pulse as saying they had seen Mateen at the LGBT nightclub on several occasions and some believed he was interested in meeting men.

Mateen’s parents immigrated from Afghanistan, but Mateen himself was an American citizen, born in New York and attended high school and a small state college in Florida. He had a state license to carry a concealed weapon, worked as a security guard, and had extensive training in the use of firearms.

The White House announced Monday night that President Obama will travel to Orlando Thursday to “pay his respects” to the families of the victims “and to stand in solidarity with the community as they embark on their recovery.”


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