Survivors of the horrific radical Islamic terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando have responded to the presence of the jihadist's father at a Hillary Clinton rally on Monday, expressing shock, outrage, and disappointment.
Seddique Mateen, the pro-Taliban, devout Muslim father of murderer Omar Mateen, made headlines again this week when people noticed him seated center stage behind the podium at a Clinton rally in Kissimmee, Florida on Monday. Mateen, who has performed several interviews since his son's heinous murder spree, spoke to reporters again this week to announce his official endorsement of Clinton. After the story broke, Clinton disavowed the endorsement, while her campaign insisted they didn't invite Mateen to the event or seat him directly behind her — though Mateen says otherwise.
Some of the survivors of the attack, which left 49 people dead and dozens wounded, have now responded to Mateen's appearance at the rally. Two of the survivors, Jacobi Ceballo and Christopher Hansen, were actually at the event, thus had sat in the same room as the father of their would-be killer, something they only learned after the fact.
The two men came to the event after being contacted by what they assume to be someone from the Clinton campaign. Following the event, they were invited backstage for a photo session with the candidate, posing for photos while holding a sign with her "Standing Together" slogan on it. But Ceballo's enthusiasm for the event and belief in that message changed dramatically when he learned about Mateen.
"I'm outraged. For him to come back to Orlando, where his son created devastation, was also mind-blowing. If I would have known that, I would have not come," Ceballo told News 6.
"Hillary has been supporting the LGBT community, she's been to Pulse, you know?" he said. "To find out (Mateen's father) was there, it's really disappointing. I'm not happy about it at all. I feel, like, let down."
Hansen said he was shocked when he first learned that Mateen was there. "I opened up my Facebook and it was the first thing I saw. I was like, 'Oh!'" he said.
While Hansen noted that some were "riled up" by the presence of the killer's father, he said he was not. "Some people are riled up. Some people aren't," he said. "Me, myself — you can't blame a parent for what a child has done."
The Clinton campaign has been playing damage control since the Mateen story broke, spokesman Nick Merrill issuing a statement Wednesday saying that Clinton "disagrees with [Mateen's] views and disavows his support." The campaign also insists that he was not invited to the event, claiming in a statement that he "wasn't invited as a guest, and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event." Mateen, however, said he was indeed "invited by the Democratic Party to attend the rally."
As for the views espoused by Mateen that Clinton is desperately trying to distance herself from, as the Daily Wire reported in June, the elder Mateen took to Facebook a day after his son shot over 100 people in a gay nightclub to say that "God will punish those involved in homosexuals," so there was no need to kill them now: he produces a TV show that promotes the Taliban Islamic extremists movement and regularly criticizes America; and he has grown increasingly extreme in recent years. In one of the many interviews he landed after his son's jihadist attack, Mateen also blamed the Pulse nightclub and cops for allowing his son to kill and injure so many people.
Here's a (devastating) local report which includes Mateen's statement to reporters after the Hillary rally. "Clinton is good for the United States, versus Donald Trump," says Mateen, who then holds a sign he made that says she is "good for national security":