President Barack Obama called the mass shooting at an LGBT Orlando nightclub Sunday an “act of terror” in remarks to the nation from the White House briefing room.
“We know enough to say this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” he said. “The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terror. We will go wherever the facts lead us … What is clear is he was a person filled with hatred.”
At least 50 people were killed and 53 more wounded in the what is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Obama said while it could have been any one of our communities, “this is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
White House reacts
The President was briefed Sunday morning by several officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, according to the White House. He also ordered American flags to be lowered to half staff to honor the victims.
Vice President Joe Biden has also been briefed on the shooting and canceled a planned trip to Miami, Florida, to attend a fundraiser for Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Biden “offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims,” according to a statement from his spokesman.
The political world began to react to the shooting at the LBGT nightclub in the early Sunday morning hours.
The LGBT congressional caucus issued a statement saying they were “horrified by the tragic shooting.”
“Though details are still emerging, an attack during Pride Month against Pulse, an iconic gathering place for LGBT Floridians, has a particularly insidious impact on our entire community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy,” said Roddy Flynn, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus.
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, offered a tweet signed “-H” to indicate it was from her personally.
“Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act,” Clinton wrote.
Clinton echoed Obama’s language in a statement issued later on Sunday, calling the shooting an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.”
“For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad,” she said. “That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.”
Clinton also called herself an ally of the LGBT community.
“We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America,” she said.
And she issued another call for gun control laws, saying that “we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called it “horrific” and “unthinkable” and said it underscores the need for gun control measures.
“Oh, it’s horrific, it’s unthinkable. And just hopes go out to all those who were shot that they can recover,” the Democratic presidential contender said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Later, in a statement, Sanders added: “At this point we do not know whether this was an act of terrorism, a terrible hate crime against gay people or the act of a very sick person, but we extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones and our thoughts are with the injured and the entire Orlando LGBTQ community.”
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, issued a series of tweets, beginning by referring to the shooting as “possible terrorism.”
In a tweet Sunday morning, Trump said: “Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.”
He later added: “Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?”
Trump also tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
And just before the President spoke, Trump tweeted: “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
“Reporting that Orlando killer shouted “Allah hu Akbar!” as he slaughtered clubgoers. 2nd man arrested in LA with rifles near Gay parade,” he added.
Floridians weigh in
Florida Gov. Rick Scott pledged to devote “every resource available” to helping after the shooting.
“My prayers are with the victims’ families & all those affected by the shooting in Orlando. We will devote every resource available to assist,” Scott tweeted.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “Our prayers are with those injured and killed early this morning in horrifying act of terror in Orlando.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the tragic Orlando attack and their families.”
A top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, wrote on Twitter: “Horrified and saddened by the appalling attack at Orlando LGBT nightclub. Praying for the victims and their families.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “Saddened to hear of the senseless mass shooting in Orlando. My thoughts are with the victims, the injured and their loved ones,” he tweeted.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.