John McCain: Senator says Barack Obama is 'directly responsible' for Orlando nightclub shooting

The Arizona senator later walked back his remarks

Feliks Garcia
New York
Thursday 16 June 2016 21:23 BST

Republican senator and 2008 presidential nominee John McCain said that President Barack Obama is “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando because he failed to quell the rise of the so-called Islamic State militant group.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible [for the Orlando attack], because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaeda went to Syria, became Isis, and Isis is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures,” Mr McCain told reporters on Thursday.

The gunman had reportedly claimed allegiance to Isis, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah - groups that have conflicting ideologies - during one of the 911 calls he made during the three-hour standoff inside of Pulse, the LGBTQ nightclub where he killed 49 people.

Donald Trump attacks John McCain's war record

Mr McCain later backtracked on his comments, issuing a statement explaining that he “misspoke”.

“I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the President himself,” he said.

“As I have said, President Obama’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 led to the rise of [Isis]. I and others have long warned that the failure of the President’s policy to deny [Isis] 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.”

GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump made remarks in the aftermath of the shooting that connected Mr Obama to the attack, suggesting that he was somehow complicit.

“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Mr Trump told Fox News. “And the something else in mind - you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”

Mr Obama responded directly.

“What exactly would using this label [‘radical Islamic terrorism’] accomplish; what exactly would it change?” he asked. “Would it make terrorists less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring along more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served to say this? The answer is none of the above.”

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