As President Obama delivered an address reacting to the shooting that resulted in 50 casualties at an Orlando nightclub, right-wing media figures attacked him for including “no mention of Islam or radical Islam or, for that matter, terrorists” in his remarks. This came after presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump urged the president to “finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism,” even though experts and former President George W. Bush noted that using “radical Islam” to define terrorism is counterproductive.
President Obama Calls Orlando Shooting “An Act Of Terror And An Act Of Hate”
Obama: Orlando Shooting Was “An Act of Terror And An Act Of Hate.” President Barack Obama delivered an address on June 12 after a shooting in an Orlando, Florida gay club left at least 50 dead and at least 53 injured. According to Politico, Obama said though it’s still “early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.” From a June 12 Politico article:
President Barack Obama on Sunday declared the worst mass shooting in U.S. history “an act of terror and an act of hate.”
“Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder, a horrific massacre, of dozens of innocent people,” Obama said Sunday. “We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.”
“Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate, and as Americans we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people,” he continued. [Politico, 6/12/16]
Trump Asks, “Is President Obama Going To Finally Mention The Words Radical Islamic Terrorism?”
Donald Trump: “Is President Obama Going To Finally Mention The Words Radical Islamic Terrorism? If He Doesn’t He Should Immediately Resign In Disgrace!”
Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
Right-Wing Media Echo Trump’s Criticism Of Obama For Not Mentioning “Radical Islam”
Fox’s Bret Baier: “There Was No Mention Of Islam Or Radical Islam Or, For That Matter, Terrorists.” Fox News host Bret Baier noted that the president said the shooter “did get access to guns and raised, again the question about how easy it is to get a weapon in America.” However, “There was no mention of Islam or radical Islam or, for that matter, terrorists.” From the June 12 edition of Fox News’ America’s Election HQ:
BRET BAIER (HOST): President Obama at the White House Briefing Room saying that this is being investigated by his FBI as “an act of terror.” Meeting with his national security team, saying he is committed to putting the full resources of the federal government behind this investigation. He said there is no definitive judgment as to the official motivation to this shooter. The person, he said, “was filled with hatred.” He went on to say that he did get access to guns and raised, again, the question about how easy it is to get a weapon in America. There was no mention of Islam or radical Islam or, for that matter, terrorists striking the U.S., even though his FBI investigators tell Fox News that this particular shooter pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS in the moments before the shooting began, and the investigation is heading down that road. [Fox News, America’s Election HQ, 6/12/16]
Fox’s Monica Crowley: “No Mention Of Islam.”
No mention of Islam. https://t.co/b1G7jaqZFC
— Monica Crowley (@MonicaCrowley) June 12, 2016
Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor: “Obama Wouldn’t Even Admit It’s Radical #Islam When The Frickin’ Terrorist Admitted It.”
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) June 12, 2016
Fox’s Tammy Bruce: Obama Talked About “The Ease [With] Which People Can Get Weapons,” But “Has Not Mentioned Islamic Terrorism.”
OMG, now he's talking about the ease w which people can get weapons. Has not mentioned Islamic terrorism.
— Tammy Bruce (@HeyTammyBruce) June 12, 2016
Fox’s Todd Starnes: “So The Jihadist Pledges Allegiance to ISIS & Shouts Allah Akbar As He Massacres Americans -- Yet Obama Says They Can’t Determine The Motive.”
So the jihadist pledges allegiance to ISIS & shouts Allah Akbar as he massacres Americans -- yet Obama says they can't determine the motive
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) June 12, 2016
Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “President Obama’s Statement On Orlando Is As False As His Statement On Benghazi.”
President Obama's statement on Orlando is as false as his statement on Benghazi. Murderer pledged allegiance to ISIS,yelled Allahu Akbar.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) June 12, 2016
Distinguishing Between Terrorism And Islam Is Part Of U.S. Strategy To Rally Allies, Avoid Dignifying Terrorists
Bloomberg View: The Term “Radical Islam” Is Counterproductive To “The Long War Against Radical Islamic Terrorists.” Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake noted that declining to attribute this type of terror attack to “radical Islam” conforms with “a longstanding U.S. policy, not only for Obama but also his predecessor, George W. Bush.” Lake explained that the Obama administration didn't use “radical Islam” to describe the ideology of the terrorists who attacked the office of the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo because the United States' war against terror “requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims”:
Both [the Bush and Obama] administrations have said repeatedly since Sept. 11, 2001, that radical Islam is not Islamic.
There is a reason for this: The long war against radical Islamic terrorists requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims.
It sounds strange. But as Emile Nakhleh, who was one of the CIA's top experts on political Islam between 1993 and 2006, told me, there was a recognition following the 9/11 attacks inside the Bush administration that many supporters of the Wahhabi strain of Islam favored by al-Qaeda and its allies were not plotting attacks on the West. In some cases, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the purveyors of Wahhabism were longstanding American allies. “There was the two-ton elephant in the room, and that is Saudi Arabia,” Nakhleh said.
So Bush for the most part opted instead to talk about the enemy as “evildoers” or “extremists,” even though on some occasions he went off message. It's why Bush's second secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, condemned as “offensive” the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in 2006 after they sparked riots across the Muslim world. [Bloomberg View, 1/19/15]
Former State Dept. Counterterrorism Official: Trumpeting “Islamic Radicalism” Would Damage Ally Relationships And Do More Harm Than Good. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's top counterterrorism official from 2009-2012, said that throwing around the phrase “Islamic radicalism” would damage to efforts to combat terror by undermining relationships with allies:
“Our allies against ISIS in the region are out there every day saying, 'This is not Islam,' ” said Mr. Benjamin, now at Dartmouth. “We don't want to undermine them. Any good it would do to trumpet 'Islamic radicalism' would be overwhelmed by the damage it would do to those relationships.” [The New York Times, 2/18/15]
Foreign Policy: Efforts To Address Terrorism By Focusing On Islam Have Backfired. Foreign Policy explained that programs that have attempted to combat terrorism by focusing exclusively on Islamic extremism have failed. Britain launched “an Islamic-centric counter-extremism effort” in 2005 called the “Prevent Program” that, according to Foreign Policy, “backfired by alienating Muslims and making cooperation with law enforcement officials even more difficult.” [Foreign Policy, 2/17/15]
The Week: Describing Terrorism As Islamic Alienates Allies And Dignifies Terrorists. In a February 18, 2015, post for The Week, Marc Ambinder wrote, “Calling terrorism Islamic terrorism ... doesn't serve the purposes of a president who has to work with countries that have a studiously complicated relationship with the purveyors of terror,” meaning it could backfire by offending and alienating countries the president needs cooperation from in order to fight terrorism. Ambinder also noted that Obama's strategy behind not using the term “Islamic terrorism” is to avoid “dignify[ing] that movement by calling it what it calls itself.” Ambinder added that “Osama bin Laden himself said that Obama's refusal to join the language fight made it more difficult to generate recruits.” [The Week, 2/18/15]
President George W. Bush Repeatedly Made Clear That Terrorism Does Not Represent The Islamic Faith
Bush: “We Do Not Fight Islam, We Fight Against Evil.” In November 2001 President Bush delivered remarks to the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism during which he stated that, “The head of the 22 nation Arab League rejected the claims of the terrorist leader and said he -- Osama bin Laden -- 'doesn't speak in the name of Arabs and Muslims.'” Bush went on to declare that “All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.” [White House Archives, 11/6/01]
Bush: “The Face Of Terror Is Not The True Faith Of Islam.” During remarks given at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C in the days following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush assured Americans that attacks committed by Al Qaeda were not representative of the Islamic faith:
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace, they represent evil and war. [White House Archives, 9/17/01]
Bush: “The Terrorists Are Traitors To Their Own Faith, Trying, In Effect, To Hijack Islam Itself.” In an address to a joint session of Congress following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush again made clear that the terrorists who attacked the United States “practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.” Bush spoke directly to the difference between extremist terrorists and Muslims:
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.) The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. [White House Archives, 9/20/01]