Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday President Obama is “directly responsible” for the Orlando shooting, later clarifying his remarks to indicate the link is the result of the administration’s national security decisions allowing the growth of ISIS.
According to the Associated Press and other reporters who heard him, McCain blamed Obama for the attacks at the same time the president and Vice President Biden were in Orlando meeting with the families of the victims of the attack at a gay nightclub, which left 49 dead and 53 wounded.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, reportedly called 911 prior to the attacks to declare support for the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria, which is known for anti-LGBT atrocities and executing men perceived as gay.
McCain, who as the Republican presidential nominee ran against Obama in the 2008 election, made the remarks after issuing a statement on Sunday condemning the shooting, but declining to identify the victims as LGBT even though the shooting occurred at a gay nightclub.
As media outlets reported McCain’s remarks, the U.S. senator from Arizona issued a statement clarifying he “misspoke” and was referring to Obama’s national security actions.
“I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible,” McCain said. “I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the president himself. As I have said, President Obama’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 led to the rise of ISIL. I and others have long warned that the failure of the president’s policy to deny ISIL safe haven would allow the terrorist organization to inspire, plan, direct or conduct attacks on the United States and Europe as they have done in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and now Orlando.”
Trump campaign aide Corey Lewandowski circulated the Washington Post report on McCain’s remarks on Twitter even though the presidential candidate clashed with McCain by expressing skepticism about whether he was war hero.
This week, Trump had suggested Obama was working in coordination with ISIS. When the Washington Post reported that, the candidate announced he would heretofore refuse to credential the news organization for events.
The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on McCain’s remarks and clarification.