Obama made the remarks in the Oval Office of the White House following a meeting with the national security team on federal efforts to investigate the shooting, which he said is in its preliminary stages.
“The one thing that we can say is that this is being treated as a terrorist investigation,” Obama said. “It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet. All those materials are currently being searched, exploited so we will have a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making the decision to launch this attack.”
Obama identifies information distributed online as an influence on the shooting as his administration has called on online companies like Facebook and Twitter for greater cooperation in monitoring social media by extremist groups.
Although the shooter pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria after the attacks and the terrorist group claimed credit the violence, Obama said no evidence demonstrates the attacks were coordinated or directed externally.
Obama took the opportunity of his remarks to emphasize the attack occurred at a gay nightclub with LGBT clientele.
“The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant,” Obama said. “We’re still looking at all the motivations of the killer. But it’s a reminder that regardless of race, religion, faith or sexual orientation, we’re all Americans, and we need to be looking after each other and protecting each other at all times in the face of this kind of terrible act.”
In response to a reporter’s question on the LGBT angle to the attacks, Obama talked about anti-LGBT persecution at the hands of ISIS.
“I think we don’t yet know the motivations,” Obama said. “But here’s what we do know — is organizations like ISIL or organizations like al Qaeda, or those who have perverted Islam and created these radical, nihilistic, vicious organizations, one of the groups that they target are gays and lesbians because they believe that they do not abide by their attitudes towards sexuality.”
Obama also sought to rebut the notion the appropriate response to the attack boil down either to gun safety measures and defeat of ISIS, but not both.
“My concern is that we start getting into a debate, as has happened in the past, which is an either/or debate,” Obama said. “And the suggestion is either we think about something as terrorism and we ignore the problems with easy access to firearms, or it’s all about firearms and we ignore the role — the very real role that that organizations like ISIL have in generating extremist views inside this country. And it’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.”
Among the participants in the meeting with Obama were Vice President Joseph Biden, FBI Director Jamse Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, National Counter Terrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.