Republican Sen. John McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, June 16, that he believed President Obama to be “directly responsible” for the devastating Orlando massacre that left 49 people dead and dozens more injured on Sunday.
“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaida went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq,” McCain, 79, said, according to The Associated Press. “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”
The senator later took to his official website to issue a statement clarifying his remarks, claiming that he “misspoke.”
“I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible,” McCain said in the statement. “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.”
In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old from Florida, opened fire at popular gay nightclub Pulse. He had also called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS around the time of the shooting.
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Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, told ABC News in an interview on Sunday that he didn’t believe the incident had to do with religion, despite reports suggesting otherwise.
“He surprised me because I didn’t see anything irregular with him,” Seddique said of Omar. “I saw him yesterday afternoon. Everything was normal.” Seddique previously told reporters that he had witnessed Omar getting angered by the sight of two men kissing several weeks earlier.
McCain and Obama faced off in the 2008 presidential election, but the senator’s most recent comments overstep political boundaries, Democrats pointed out.
“[McCain] cross[ed] a dangerous line in comments that undermine our commander in chief on national security issues — at the very moment the president was in Orlando to comfort victims’ families,” Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick said in a statement.
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement that McCain’s “unhinged comments are just the latest proof that Senate Republicans are puppets of Donald Trump.”
Earlier in the week, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee went on-record saying that President Obama has been lax in his attitude against terrorism.
“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands,” he said on Fox News Monday. “It’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable.”