An early segment about gun control on the third night of the Democratic convention made a reference to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016.
It’s remarkable how little reckoning there has been about how spectacularly inaccurately that event was described in the initial days after that attack, and how an Islamist terror attack was widely re-spun as a reflection of “homegrown homophobia,” in the words of the Washington Post. During the trial of the shooter’s wife, it became clear the shooter was not a closeted gay man as some initially claimed, his original target had been Disney World, and in fact it was not clear if the shooter knew the Pulse club was a gay nightclub when he went in with his murderous intent. The shooter’s motive was not hard to determine when he literally pledged his loyalty to ISIS while on the phone with police. The Orlando Police Department did not classify the massacre as a “hate crime” – although one could reasonably argue that all terrorism meets any common definition of hateful, if not the legal definition.
You may recall the FBI initially released an edited transcript of the shooter’s call with police, removing references to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State — a move that then-House speaker Paul Ryan called “preposterous.”
The entire episode suggested that some voices in our government were in such adamant denial about the reality of ISIS-inspired attacks that they would attempt to persuade the public that somehow Republican hostility to gay marriage was spurring American-born Muslims – who just happened to previously have been on FBI watch lists – to shoot up crowds of gay Americans.
You can argue that the Pulse nightclub shooting illustrates the need for gun control – although you’re likely to encounter a great deal of skepticism from gun owners and Second Amendment supporters. But the way that the FBI, Obama administration, and major voices in the media responded to that attack – along with the San Bernardino attack, the Minnesota stabbing, the Chelsea bombing and other ISIS-inspired attacks – probably contributed to Americans fearing that their government wasn’t being honest with them about the threat of Islamist terrorism, and that some segments of the media were complicit in the dishonesty. There are many reasons Trump won in 2016, but that sense that Hillary Clinton would continue a willfully blind approach to this kind of terrorism was almost certainly one of them.