Obama Says Orlando Shooting Was 'Act of Terror, Act of Hate'

The motives of the shooter who killed 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando remain unclear, president says, but vows that an attack on any Americans, 'regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us.'

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the worst mass shooting in U.S. history that took place in Orlando, Florida, at the White House on June 12, 2016.
Joshua Roberts, Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday night that law enforcement had "reached no definitive judgement on the precise motivation of the killer," in the Orlando shooting earlier in the day.

"What is clear is that he was a person filled with hate," he said.

"Attacks on any Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us," he declared. "We will stand united as Americans," he added. "As Americans we are united in grief, courage and resolve to defend our people."

Obama also noted that the worst mass shooting in U.S. history is a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get a weapon that allows them to shoot people in a school, in a house of worship, a movie theater or a gay nightclub.

A gunman killed 50 people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday and wounded at least 53 others before being killed by police in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Law enforcement suspect that the shooter was aligned with the Islamic State group.

The shooter was identified as Omar S. Mateen, a Florida resident who a senior FBI official said might have had leanings towards Islamic State militants. Officials called the rampage a "terrorism incident," but cautioned that the suspected Islamist connection required further investigation.

NBC News, meanwhile, reported that Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to Islamic State before the shooting. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on a congressional intelligence committee, said local law enforcement believed Mateen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group. 

The presumptive nominees for November's presidential election also condemned the attack.

Republican president candidate Donald Trump, known for stirring controversy, settled for a relatively subdued tweet, calling the attack a "Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart and vigilant?"

Later, however, Trump tweeted out: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

The presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, also reacted to the incident, tweeting: "Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act."