Hillary Clinton began a campaign stop in Kissimmee, Florida, on Tuesday 9 August, by paying tribute to those affected by the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. But local news cameras covering the event noticed an interesting attendee: Seddique Mateen, the father of shooter Omar Mateen.
"I know how many people, family members, loved ones and friends are still grieving, and we will be with you as you rebuild your lives," the Democratic nominee said as WPTV's cameras noticed Mateen, sitting just behind Clinton. "We can't ever let that kind of hatred and violence break the spirit, break the soul of any place in America."
The man, who said he was a Democrat, told WPTV he believes Clinton is good for national security and cited gun control laws. "Hillary Clinton is good for the United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," Mateen said.
When asked about attending an event so soon after the incident on 12 June 2016, he said: "I spoke a lot about that and wish that my son joined the Army and fought Isis. That would be much better." Mateen defended his decision to attend the rally, noting that his family was cooperating with federal investigators.
WPTV then asked Mateen if the Clinton campaign knew he was attending the rally, to which he responded: "It's a Democratic Party, so everyone can join." He added that people should not be surprised that he attended the rally. "I love the United States, and I've been living here a long time," he said.
Clinton's campaign denied knowing Mateen was going to be at the rally. "The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public. This individual wasn't invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event," a Clinton aide said.
According to CNN - following the deadly shooting - Clinton called for stricter gun control and renewed efforts to root homegrown terrorism and in the Middle East. Clinton's Republican rival Donald Trump, however, positioned himself against new gun legislation and blamed American Muslims for not reporting "mad men" to local law enforcement to FBI.