As political leaders bicker over guns and terrorism, President Obama tried to help a distraught community heal during a solemn visit Thursday, June 16, 2016 to Orlando, Fla.
Obama planned no major speech or call to action during his trip to a community after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, as he has after other tragedies. Instead, the president planned to spend much of his time privately consoling the families of the 49 victims and meeting with doctors, paramedics and other first responders.
The low-profile visit reflected the president’s challenge to find something meaningful to say when the causes of the attack seem to grow murkier by the day. Even as the families of 49 victims bury their loved ones, it’s unclear what led a 29-year-old Muslim born in New York to open fire in a gay nightclub where he may have been a frequent patron.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would deal with the ambiguity in the Florida shooting by focusing on the victims.
“The president’s visit to Orlando has nothing to do with the individual who perpetrated this terrible attack,” Earnest said Wednesday. He said Obama intended to tell residents “that they’re not alone, even as they endure what surely have been several dark nights.”
The White House released few details in advance about Obama’s visit, which aides said was hurriedly arranged in a fraction of the time usually required to plan a presidential trip. But Obama planned to use the visit “to make clear that the country stands with the people of Orlando, stands with the LGBT community in Orlando, as they grieve for their loss,” Earnest said.
Vice President Joe Biden was joining Obama in Orlando. (AP)