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Trump, Clinton offer contrasting responses to Orlando shooting

Donald Trump (left) spoke in Manchester, N.H., on Monday. Hillary Clinton spoke in Cleveland.Jessica Rinaldi/globe staff; Tony Dejak/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Orlando shootings put the approach to fighting terrorism and gun violence in high relief Monday, as Republican Donald Trump blamed the Obama administration for the attacks and Democrat Hillary Clinton called for unity in the face of terror and warned against demagoguery.

Trump, in a prepared speech in New Hampshire, attacked the Obama administration’s immigration policies and asserted that the nightclub massacre, the worst mass shooting in US history, demonstrated why the country should deny entry to Muslims. He vowed, as president, to suspend immigration from parts of the world where there’s been a history of terrorism.

“Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country — they enslave women, and murder gays,” the presumptive Republican nominee said at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. “I don’t want them in our country.”


In an interview on Fox earlier Monday, he seemed to suggest that President Obama has an ulterior motive for not tightening the US immigration policy further.

“We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart — or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said in the Fox interview. “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.”

Trump on Sunday had called for Obama to resign. Asked to elaborate, Trump said, “He doesn’t get it — or he gets it better than anybody understands. It’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable.”

His campaign did not respond to Globe requests to clarify his remarks. Trump later banned the Washington Post from covering his campaign events, citing a headline the newspaper posted on its website Monday: “Donald Trump Suggests President Obama Was Involved With Orlando Shooting.”


Trump’s insinuation that Obama is somehow sympathetic to terror comes after his inaccurate allusions in previous years, before his campaign for president, to Obama being Muslim and being born in Kenya.

The statements followed his response Sunday, after the lone gunman slaughtered 49 people in the gay nightclub while pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Then, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.’’

Trump also incorrectly stated during his Manchester speech that the Orlando terrorist, Omar Mateen, was “born an Afghan,’’ when in fact he was an American citizen born in New York to parents who emigrated from Afghanistan.

“The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” Trump said. “We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer.”

He spent much of his 30-minute speech attacking Clinton — mentioning her 19 times, accusing the former secretary of state of being in “total denial” and calling her “weak.”

“She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us,” Trump said.

Clinton, who has clinched the Democratic nomination, on Monday reiterated her call for an assault weapons ban and attacked Trump’s policies without mentioning him by name. She delivered her remarks in Cleveland, Ohio, a critical swing state, before Trump’s New Hampshire speech.


“Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim-Americans as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror,” Clinton said.

“So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion. It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino. That’s wrong. And it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.”

Clinton appealed for unity, recalling the days following the 9/11 terror attacks when Americans from all walks of life rallied together and President Bush visited a Muslim community center to send a message of solidarity. She used that anecdote to remind voters of her tenure as a senator representing New York.

“There was a Republican president, Republican governor, and Republican mayor,” Clinton said. “We did not attack each other. We worked with each other to protect our country and rebuild our city.”

Clinton said the United States should step up its efforts to thwart ‘‘lone wolves’’ who are inspired from afar by terrorist organizations like the Islamic State. She also called on some Western allies in the region ‘‘to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations.”

Prior to their dueling speeches, the candidates also appeared in back-to-back interviews on CNN responding to the Pulse nightclub shooting. Part of the debate pivoted on how the leaders describe America’s terrorist enemies.


Clinton, in response to Trump’s criticism of her failure to say the words “radical Islamic terror” or “radical Islam,’’ said she was willing is to call the attack “radical jihadism” or “radical Islamism.” But she said she refuses to “declare war on an entire religion.” She called Trump’s rhetoric “quite dangerous to our country.”

A number of recent mass shootings, she said, citing fatal attacks in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., had nothing to do with radical Islamic terrorism.

“So this is a problem we have to look at very squarely,” Clinton said, pointing to what she described as easy access to guns in this country.

As he did following the terror attacks in Paris last November, Trump said that average citizens should arm themselves for protection to prevent massacres like the one in Orlando.

“If you had guns in that room, if you had . . . a number of people having them strapped to their ankle or strapped to their waist, where bullets could have flown in the other direction right at him, you wouldn’t have had the same kind of tragedy,” Trump said.

Before the Orlando attack, polls showed voters felt Clinton would do a better job than Trump at keeping the nation safe. Registered voters believed by a 10-point margin that Clinton would be a better commander in chief, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last month.

“This is an issue that favors the seasoned, steady, deliberate experience of Hillary Clinton and not the flippant, fly-by-night, drive-by insults of Donald Trump,” said Steve McMahon, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “Trump may be on the right side of the NRA, but he’s on the wrong side of the terrorism conversation.”


But other specialists expect more voters will gravitate toward Trump following the Orlando shooting because of his strong stance against immigration — even though the shooter was American-born.

“It’s unquestionable that John Q. Public, in light of this latest development, would be more likely to favor Trumpian tough talk than trying to change the subject and talk about gun control,” said David Schaefer, a political scientist at the College of the Holy Cross who studies campaign rhetoric, foreign policy, and the presidency.

“The problem with Trump is that even when he has a potentially sound point, he then gussies it up with so many things that are incredible that it actually weakens his argument,” Schaefer said, referring to Trump’s latest comments on Obama.

Tracy Jan can be reached at tracy.jan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TracyJan.