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Republican Sen. John McCain apologized Thursday for an earlier statement where he said that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead and 53 injured.
McCain’s original remarks were made to a small group of reporters who asked the senator about the recent gun control debate, according to the Washington Post. McCain said Obama was at fault for the Orlando shooting because of his foreign policy decisions, which Republicans say led to the rise of ISIS.
“Barack Obama is directly responsible for [the Orlando shooting] 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,” McCain said.
According to the Post, when asked to clarify his claim that Obama was “directly responsible,” McCain said, “[Obama] pulled everybody out of Iraq, and I predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked, and there would be attacks on the United States of America. It’s a matter of record, so he is directly responsible.”
McCain later posted a statement to his website saying he did not mean Obama himself was personally responsible, but rather the president’s decisions in regards to national security measures.
“I misspoke … As I have said, President Obama’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 led to the rise of ISIL,” McCain said. “I and others have long warned that the failure of the president’s policy to deny ISIL 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.”
Omar Mateen, the gunman in the Orlando shooting, made various calls during his attack on a gay nightclub. He reportedly pledged his allegiance to ISIS and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 911 calls made during the attack. CBS recently reported that Mateen also made a Facebook post on the day of the shooting where he warned of future attacks.
Following the shooting, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted a link to an article that implies Obama supports ISIS. Trump also made comments earlier this week that he would vow to suspend immigration from areas where there’s a proven history of terrorism.
During McCain’s comments, Obama was traveling to Orlando with Vice President Joe Biden to pay respects to the victim’s families. Obama met privately with them and placed bouquets of 49 white roses at the memorial site, ABC reports. He also showed his support of stricter gun-control laws.
“If, in fact, we want to show the best of our humanity, then we’re all going to have to work together at every level of government across political lines to do more to stop killers who want to terrorize us,” Obama said.