Clinton, Trump pause politicking in shooting's wake

2016-06-13 05:16
A woman shows off her signed campaign poster after a Hillary Clinton r ally in Marshalltown. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

A woman shows off her signed campaign poster after a Hillary Clinton r ally in Marshalltown. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Washington - Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton paused their presidential politicking on Sunday to offer prayers and support to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting, the worst mass shooting in US history.

But they both infused their sympathy with statements that support their presidential aspirations, and the presidential race rolled on.

For Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, it was a push for gun control and outreach to a key constituency - gays and lesbians.

"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," she said in a statement, adding a call to keep assault weapons out of the hands of "terrorists or other violent criminals".

Clinton's presidential campaign meanwhile has postponed its first joint event with President Barack Obama on Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, because of the deadly shooting.

Clinton and Obama were scheduled to make their first appearance together since the president announced his endorsement of the likely Democratic nominee last week.

A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub early on Sunday, killing at least 50 people before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. Another 53 were hospitalised, most in critical condition.

Trump

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, also offered words of support while keeping up his political commentary. It was unclear whether the shooter, identified as Omar Mateen of Port St Lucie, Florida, had any ties to religious radicals and President Barack Obama called the tragedy an act of terror and hate.

As Obama stepped to the podium in Washington, Trump tweeted:

"Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!"

Obama didn't talk about religious extremists, nor did others reluctant to inflame a stunned nation already on-edge about terrorist attacks inspired by the Islamic State. Obama said the FBI would investigate the shootings in the gay nightclub as terrorism but that the alleged shooter's motivations were unclear.

He said the US "must spare no effort" to determine whether the suspect, identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, had any ties to extremist groups.

A law enforcement official says the shooter was known to the FBI before the incident and had been looked at by agents within the last few years. The official spoke to The Associated Press Sunday on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorised to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Trump's first tweet of the day was factual: "Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded."

Tweeted Clinton: "Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act."

And then they resumed their plans on Sunday.

On schedule, Clinton's campaign unveiled its first general election ad Sunday morning. It will run in battleground states beginning on Thursday.

Bernie Sanders

And Senator Bernie Sanders, still in the contest for the Democratic nomination despite Clinton's claim on it, went on with a round of appearances on the Sunday talk shows. He acknowledged the tragedy - then said he would not drop out of the race and endorse Clinton until he's convinced she's committed to fighting wealth disparity.

He later issued a statement of sympathy to the Florida victims, with no political overtones.

Two hours later, Trump responded to the Clinton ad.

"Clinton made a false ad about me where I was imitating a reporter GROVELLING after he changed his story. I would NEVER mock disabled. Shame!"

The Clinton ad uses footage of Trump onstage, flailing his arms in an apparent attempt to mimic New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital condition that restricts joint movement. At the time, Trump was taking issue with a story Kovaleski had written for The Washington Post.

Roughly two hours after that tweet, Trump returned to the shootings.

"Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?" he tweeted.

An hour later, he followed up with some self-praise: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

That kind of word choice - focusing on a person's religious affiliation or ethnicity - has long fuelled Republican anger toward Trump among the party's elites, who spent Saturday raging against his rise to the cusp of the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump's remarks about Muslims and Mexicans have especially chafed the party regulars. Trump wants to ban Muslims from the US for an indeterminate amount of time. He also wants to deport 11 million people in the country illegally and build a wall along the border with Mexico.

At the meeting in Utah, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended his endorsement of Trump, but left open the prospect of rescinding his support if the billionaire developer fails to turn away from racial criticisms and toward a Republican agenda that unites the party.

"I believe and hope that he's going to change and improve his campaign," Ryan said in an interview aired on Sunday on ABC's This Week. Echoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's conditional backing, Ryan added: "We'll see."


Read more on:    donald trump  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  orlando shooting  |  us 2016 elections

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