Less than one day after the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history claimed the lives of at least 50 people, Donald Trump is already seizing the opportunity to push his Islamophobic rhetoric. Hours after expressing gratitude toward the people who said he was “right about radical Islamic terrorism,” the presidential candidate released a fearmongering statement about immigrants from the Middle East.
“The terrorist, Omar Mir Saddique Mateen, is the son of an immigrant from Afghanistan,” the statement reads. “We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States.”
Mateen’s motives have not yet become clear, but he reportedly called 911 and swore his allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) before opening fire on a gay nightclub. In the immediate hours after the story broke, Mateen’s father gave an interview in which he apologized for his son and suggested the shooting was motivated more by homophobia than by religious zealotry.
Pivoting to one of his Democratic challengers, Trump continued, “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term — and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.”
Trump also used the statement to slam President Obama, who called the shooting an act of terror, because he omitted the words “Radical Islam” from his speech on Sunday. In lieu of criticizing Islam, the president’s remarks focused on the LGBT community and the ease with which people procure deadly weapons, including assault rifles — two aspects of the shooting that were not addressed in Trump’s latest statement.
“This is a reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of integrity and dignity that help us as a country,” Obama said.
Although mass shootings are far more common than terrorist attacks and Americans are much more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists than Muslims, Trump has repeatedly blamed Muslims for failing to prevent terrorists and urged greater surveillance of Muslims living in the U.S. Throughout his presidential bid, he’s said that, as president, he would create a database of Muslims, ban Muslim immigration, and claimed that “Islam hates us.”
Meanwhile, Muslim groups have rallied to support the LGBT community and Orlando in the aftermath of the shooting. The Council on American-Islamic Relations gave a press conference in which they exhorted Muslims to donate blood to help the 53 people wounded in the shooting. Local Islamic centers are also holding vigils and raising money for the victims.
“We need to protect all Americans, of all backgrounds and all beliefs, from Radical Islamic Terrorism — which has no place in an open and tolerant society. Radical Islam advocates hate for women, gays, Jews, Christians, and all Americans,” Trump concluded in his statement. “I am going to be a President for all Americans, and I am going to protect and defend all Americans. We are going to make American safe again and great again for everyone.”