President Barack Obama decried the deadliest mass shooting in American history on Sunday as a terrorist act targeting a place of “solidarity and empowerment” for gays and lesbians. He urged Americans to decide “if that’s the kind of country we want to be.”
Hours after a gunman killed at least 50 people in Orlando, Obama said the FBI would investigate the nightclub shooting as terrorism, but said the alleged shooter’s motivations were unclear. He said the U.S. “must spare no effort” to determine whether the suspect, identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, had any ties to extremist groups.
“What is clear is he was a person filled with hatred,” Obama said of the alleged shooter. He added: “We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.”
Obama had planned to travel to Wisconsin on Wednesday for his first campaign appearance of the 2016 race, a joint rally with Hillary Clinton in Green Bay, Wisconsin. But Clinton’s campaign and the White House said that event was being postponed in light of the attack.
The president, who has proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, called the attack “heartbreaking” for the LGBT community. He said the site of the shooting was more than a nightclub because it was a place where people came “to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.”
“The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends to dance and to sing — to live,” Obama said.
For Obama, the hastily arranged remarks were the latest in what’s become a tragically familiar routine. Since he took office in 2009, Obama has appeared before cameras more than a dozen times following mass shootings and issued written statements after many others.
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Click video to watch President Obama’s statement on the tragic shooting that took place overnight in Orlando, Florida.