ORLANDO, Fla. — National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the Washington Blade on Thursday that the global response to the Pulse nightclub massacre is a direct challenge to the so-called Islamic State and those “who foster hate and division” in the U.S. and abroad.
“Orlando has been unbelievable in showing the world who we are as Americans,” Rice told the Blade during a telephone interview. “It is the counterpoint not only to ISIL, but those who foster hate and division domestically and abroad.”
Rice spoke with the Blade shortly after President Obama and Vice President Biden met with the families of the victims of the June 12 massacre and Pulse nightclub’s owners and employees who were working when Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Fla., opened fire.
Obama described the massacre as “an attack on the LGBT community” after he and Biden visited a makeshift memorial in downtown Orlando that pays tribute to the 49 people who died inside the nightclub.
“We’re just grieving for those who are lost,” Rice told the Blade.
No evidence to suggest gunman tied to extremist group
The gunman pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call he made after he opened fire inside the gay nightclub, even though there is no evidence to suggest the Sunni militant group prompted him to carry out the massacre.
Reports indicate ISIS, which is also known as Daesh, has executed dozens of men in Syria and Iraq who had been accused of committing sodomy.
ARA News, an independent Syrian news agency, reported members of the Sunni militant group publicly stoned a 15-year-old boy to death in the Syrian city of Mayadin on May 23. An LGBT activist in the Libyan city of Benghazi told the Blade last month that ISIS has also killed gay men in areas of his country under their control.
“Their ideology is viciously, violently homophobic,” Rice told the Blade. “It’s anti-everything.”
She noted that the U.S. and 65 other countries are part of a coalition that seeks to fight ISIS and “discredit” and “defeat its ideology.” Rice spoke with the Blade hours before Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that his country’s army had defeated the Sunni militant group in the city of Fallujah.
“There will be no caliphate,” said Rice. “There will be no glory for those killing in the name of ISIL.”
Rice criticizes ‘hate-filled rhetoric in public discourse’
Obama on Tuesday sharply criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for reiterating his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and suspend immigration from areas “when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies.”
Rice did not mention Trump by name when she spoke with the Blade. She did, however, note there are “those who still hate all sorts of people in our society and there are those who don’t view us as a single body of humanity.”
“This is a jolt,” Rice told the Blade, referring to the Pulse nightclub massacre. “What we are seeing sadly more recently is an infusion of hate-filled rhetoric into public discourse and a greater degree of attention being paid to it and then in some people’s mind it becomes more acceptable.”
She added she looks at what happened inside the gay nightclub through the lens of an African-American woman over 50 years old “with a lot of horror or chagrin harkening back to an era that was thankfully ending when I was a child.”
“Hate crimes are not new in this country,” Rice told the Blade. “They’ve been sadly directed at all sorts of groups.”