In yet another wild 24 hours on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton rebuffed questions about why the father of the Orlando nightclub terrorist was perched directly behind her at a Florida rally — and Democrats charged Donald Trump’s remarks to gun owners amounted to a physical threat to the former secretary of state.
Clinton, who hasn’t held a press conference in 249 days, ignored a reporter’s question in Miami yesterday about whether she should have known that Seddique Mateen — the father of the gunman whose rampage at a gay nightclub killed 49 and wounded 53 — was in attendance.
Mateen, who has vowed that “God himself will punish gays” and declared himself the head of an Afghan “transitional revolutionary government,” sat directly behind Clinton and at one point appeared to take a photo of her with his cellphone during a rally in Kissimmee, where she acknowledged the Orlando victims.
Afterward, Mateen told Florida station WPTV he’s backing the Democrat and held a sign proclaiming Clinton is “good for national security” and “gun control laws.”
“Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump,” he said in broken English, adding that he was invited because he’s a “member” of the Democratic Party.
The Clinton campaign in a statement insisted it didn’t personally invite Mateen and didn’t know about his attendance until afterwards.
But seats directly behind the candidate are usually highly sought-after and tightly controlled by the campaigns because they create a visible backdrop for TV cameras.
Meanwhile, Trump’s efforts at a more disciplined campaign fell apart yesterday when he tried to rally supporters in North Carolina against a Clinton White House.
“Hillary wants to … essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Editor’s Note: The following video shows Trump comment in context.
The Clinton campaign and others immediately accused Trump of inciting violence and jeopardizing her safety.
“A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way,” read a campaign statement.
Bay State U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also lashed out, tweeting that Trump “makes death threats because he’s a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl.”
The Trump campaign blamed the “dishonest media” for the controversy, insisting the billionaire was referring to gun rights activists’ collective political power at the polls.
“It proves that most of the press is in the tank for Hillary Clinton,” former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said at a subsequent Trump rally last night.
“They will buy any lie, any distortion, any spin, that the Clintons put out and they’ve been doing it since he was governor of Arkansas,” Giuliani said, referring to Bill Clinton.
Trump had spent the last few days remaining mostly on-message, delivering an economic policy address piped in through a teleprompter, while trying to claw back from a double-digit deficit in national polls and lost territory in battleground states.
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