Media figures criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for “casually [and] darkly” suggesting that President Obama sympathizes with Islamic terrorists and was complicit in the Orlando terror attack, calling his comments “indefensible,” “distasteful,” and part of his “latest escalation in his years-long campaign to smear” Obama.
Trump Suggests Obama Sympathizes With Islamic Terrorists
49 People Killed At Gay Club In Deadliest Mass Shooting In U.S. History. A gunman who reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS stormed an Orlando, FL, gay club on June 12, killing 49 people. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. [The New York Times, 6/13/16]
Trump Suggests Obama May Be A Terrorist Sympathizer. In his first interview following the Orlando terror attack, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told the co-hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends that President Obama “doesn't get it or he gets it better than anybody understands.” Politico noted that Trump was “insinuating that the president’s sympathies might lie elsewhere.” Trump also said that “we’re led by a man that either is, is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind … there’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.” [Politico, 6/13/16]
Media Slam Trump For His “Distasteful And Dangerous” Attacks On Obama
WSJ: Trump’s Remarks Are The “Latest Escalation In His Years-Long Campaign To Smear Mr. Obama.” The Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein and Julian Routh wrote that Trump’s attacks on Obama were part of a larger “escalation in his years-long campaign to smear Mr. Obama as somehow un-American,” noting that Trump has repeatedly accused Obama of not being “concerned with protecting his countrymen.” [The Wall Street Journal, 6/13/16]
NY Magazine: “Trump Is Winking At The Darkest Corner Of The Far-Right Fever Swamp” With His “Dangerous” Comments. New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz criticized Trump’s “distasteful and dangerous” response to the Orlando attack, and asserted that “Trump is winking at the darkest corner of the far-right fever swamp, the one occupied by people who believe Obama is not just a secret Muslim, but a radical Muslim trying to impose Sharia law on the United States,” in response to Trump’s dubious insinuations about Obama. Levitz connected Trump’s “profoundly irresponsible” allegations to a similar “far-right conspiracy theory, popularized by [conservative author] Dinesh D’Souza.” [New York Magazine, 6/13/16]
The National Memo: Trump’s Remarks Follow A “Very Familiar Playbook” Which He Uses To “Delegitimize The President.” The National Memo’s Matt Shuham slammed Trump for using “the worst mass shooting in American history to accuse the president of knowing ahead of time that the attacks would happen,” writing that Trump's smears follow “a very familiar playbook, one that he used to delegitimize the president in a months-long racist attack on his background.” Shuham also noted that Trump’s comments on Fox & Friends happened on “the show where his birtherism was originally given a platform.” [The National Memo, 6/13/16]
ThinkProgress: Trump “Not So Subtly” Launched Into An “Outrageous Conspiracy Theor[y]” About Obama. ThinkProgress' Judd Legum wrote in a June 13 article that “Trump not so subtly returned to the subject that launched his political career — outrageous conspiracy theories about Barack Obama.” The article noted that Trump’s suggestion that “Obama is purposefully allowing terrorists to kill people in the United States to pursue a hidden agenda” is “fully consistent with his long-held conspiracy theory that Obama is a secret Muslim, born in Kenya, who forged his birth certificate in order to become president.” [ThinkProgress, 6/13/16]
Huffington Post: Trump, “A Renowned Conspiracy Theorist,” Is “At It Again” With Insinuations About Obama. Huffington Post senior politics editor Sam Stein wrote that although Trump’s allegation against Obama “may be jarring, it’s not altogether surprising,” given Trump is a “renowned conspiracy theorist” and has “spent years questioning Obama’s birthplace.” Stein also noted that Trump is an “expert at making such coy, suggestive remarks” that “are just vague enough that he can later insist he wasn’t actually implying the most nefarious interpretation.” [Huffington Post, 6/13/16]
MSNBC’s Steve Benen: Trump’s “Indefensible” “Crackpot Rhetoric” Is Not Lacking In “Ambiguity.” Steve Benen, producer of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, slammed Trump for managing “to make matters slightly worse” after having already “responded to the mass shooting in Orlando in indefensible ways.” Benen wrote that “there isn’t much in the way of ambiguity” in Trump’s remarks, calling his “crackpot rhetoric” “indefensible” and questioning “what do Trump’s Republican supporters and enablers think about this?” [MSNBC.com, 6/13/16]
NY Times’ Alex Burns: “‘There’s Something Going On’ Is Trump’s Go-To Way Of Implying Something Unbelievably Sinister [Without] Quite Saying It.”
NY Times’ Jonathan Martin: “How To Stay In News Cycle On Day 2: Casually & Darkly Suggest Obama Has Reason To Be Soft On Terror.”
Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough: Trump’s Suggestion Is “Beyond Breathtaking.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Trump’s comments remind him of “scum bags” who “said that George W. Bush had something to do with 9/11,” continuing that the suggestion was “beyond breathtaking.” MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle responded that Trump’s claim “is basically a disqualifier to be president.” From the June 14 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (HOST): It gets worse by the day on the campaign trail. Yesterday a suggestion, a suggestion on several channels that Barack Obama was somehow implicated in these terror attacks and then saying, “Well, I'll let people just try to figure out what I said.” It reminds me when a lot of scum bags said that George W. Bush had something to do with 9/11. But to have, those on the internet, to have the standard bearer, Paul Ryan's candidate, Mitch McConnell's candidate, the Republican Party's candidate saying that Barack Obama may have been complicit in the killings of Americans is beyond breathtaking.
MIKE BARNICLE: Joe, yesterday what he said on TV early in the morning is basically a disqualifier to be president of the United State, because he accused the sitting president of the United States, Barack Obama of a treasonous act.
SCARBOROUGH: And then when asked to clarify later in the day, he does what he always does. He refuses to clarify. So the conspiracy theorists hear the dog-whistle and go to it. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 6/14/16]
CNN’s Jake Tapper: Trump’s Claim Is “Ridiculous And, Frankly, Truly Offensive.” CNN host Jake Tapper excoriated Trump’s suggestion, calling it “ridiculous and, frankly, truly offensive” and “an allusion to a more nefarious motivation.” From the June 13 edition of CNN’s The Lead:
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): I reached out to the Trump campaign hours ago for clarification as to what specifically Mr. Trump was suggesting about the president. I have not yet heard back. Now, the interpretation from the reliably pro Trump New York Post was the following, quote, “Trump: Maybe Obama Sympathizes With The Terrorists.” That can't be, though, right? I mean, he just revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post for making that exact same interpretation. So he could not possibly be saying that the president of the United States who sent thousands of US troops, not to mention drones all over the world to kill radical Islamic terrorists, that he secretly sympathizes with these twisted, homicidal Islamic psychopaths. I reached out to a conservative friend of mine who is voting for Mr. Trump. He says he thinks Trump is suggesting that President Obama, because of his quote, “leftist politics or sympathy to Islam in general” is reluctant to identify the radical strain of Islam as the cause of this horror. Perhaps, that seems to me, a rather charitable interpretation given Mr. Trump’s comments that Obama, quote, “gets it better than anybody understands,” but the truth is I don't know for sure what Mr. Trump was suggesting because it was an allusion to a more nefarious motivation that Mr. Trump would not specify. Now look, on a day like today it’s tough to get too worked up about anything other than that which is immediately relevant to the heinous terrorist attack from Sunday morning. But if Mr. Trump was not suggesting what so many folks, including his fans thought he was, he should probably clarify it because an accusation by a major party presidential nominee, that an American president sympathizes with these religious fanatics who bring nothing but hatred and death throughout the world and killed in cold blood 49 innocent people just a few hours ago in Orlando, well, that accusation would be ridiculous and, frankly, truly offensive. [CNN, The Lead, 6/13/16]
Fox News Has Long Given Credence To Trump’s Birther Attacks On Obama
Fox News Has Promoted And Cheered Trump’s Racist Attacks On Obama’s Birthplace. After Trump first floated his conspiracy theory about Obama’s place of birth in 2011, Fox News significantly ramped up its coverage of birther conspiracies. Fox hosts, contributors, and guests frequently espoused birther conspiracies and/or did not challenge or correct false claims about Obama's birth throughout the 2012 campaign and beyond. [Media Matters, 3/24/11; 3/28/11; 3/28/11; 4/27/11; 9/9/15; 9/18/15; 2/1/16]
This post has been updated to include additional examples.