WASHINGTON — Those vying for the White House responded to the terrorist attack in Orlando with empathy, accusations, policy prescriptions and one call to not “politicize” the tragedy.
Omar Mateen, a New York-born 29-year-old security guard, killed 50 and wounded 50 more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early this morning. He called 911 during the rampage and swore allegiance to ISIS.
Hillary Clinton postponed a Wednesday event in Green Bay, Wis. — her first scheduled with President Obama — due to the attack on the LGBT nightclub in Florida, her campaign said.
“This was an act of terror. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead. For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad,” Clinton said in a statement. “That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.”
“This was also an act of hate. The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month. To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country. I am one of them. We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America.”
Clinton added that “we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”
“This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets,” she said.
Donald Trump took to his favored medium, Twitter: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
Trump also tweeted, “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
“What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough,” he later added.
In a statement issued by his campaign, Trump said Clinton should drop out of the race if she doesn’t use the words “radical Islam.”
“Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing,” Trump said.
“We need to protect all Americans, of all backgrounds and all beliefs, from Radical Islamic Terrorism – which has no place in an open and tolerant society. Radical Islam advocates hate for women, gays, Jews, Christians and all Americans. I am going to be a president for all Americans, and I am going to protect and defend all Americans. We are going to make America safe again and great again for everyone,” the statement added.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said this afternoon that “all Americans are horrified, disgusted and saddened by the horrific atrocity in Orlando.”
“At this point we do not know whether this was an act of terrorism, a terrible hate crime against gay people or the act of a very sick person, but we extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones and our thoughts are with the injured and the entire Orlando LGBTQ community,” Sanders added.
Libertarian candidate Gov. Gary Johnson tweeted, “Thoughts are with the
#Orlando victims & a community who has been attacked. It’s a time to mourn, be strong & be what makes America great.”
Johnson later added in a statement to the Washington Post: “In this immediate aftermath of what is clearly a tragic and despicable attack, our thoughts must be with the victims.”
“Regardless of what the motivation is ultimately found to be, this violence against innocent people simply going about their lives is both cowardly and infuriating. We must allow the authorities to do their jobs, understand how this attack came about, and then respond accordingly,” he said. “It is not a time to either politicize or jump to conclusions.”
Among former presidential contenders, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) declared, “Our nation is at war.”
“Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation,” Cruz added. “If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was on the ground in Orlando with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today, said he was “devastated by this heartbreaking act of terrorism” in his home state.
“Confronting the threat of violent homegrown radicalization is one of the greatest counterterrorism challenges our law enforcement and intelligence community faces,” Rubio said. “We must do more at every level of government and within our own communities to identify and mitigate this cancer on our free society and prevent further loss of innocent life.”