Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Jaws drop as father of Orlando mass shooter attends Clinton's rally

In a presidential campaign packed with odd moments, Monday's Hillary Clinton rally in Kissimmee served up the most surreal one yet.

Seddique Mateen could be seen in the crowd steps away from Clinton as she paid tribute to the victims his son, Omar, killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Throughout the rally, held about 20 miles from the massacre, Mateen waved a small American flag, took photos of Clinton with his phone and smiled.

And it was all caught on video.

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and conservative radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity were among those quick to jump on the Clinton campaign for allowing Mateen a prime seat just over the left shoulder of the Democratic presidential candidate.

"Unbelievable," Palin said on Twitter afterward.

Hannity, who is advocating for Donald Trump's election, led his nationally syndicated talk radio show with Mateen's appearance, questioning why the man who once expressed gratitude for the Afghan Taliban is endorsing Clinton.

"Why was he sitting behind Hillary last night?" Hannity said.

Veteran Florida campaign strategist Mac Stipanovich, a Republican who has declared himself part of the #NeverTrump effort, said Tuesday that someone in the Clinton campaign should have seen Mateen in the crowd and kept him away from the cameras.

"This was clearly a staff error and an embarrassing one," Stipanovich said. "Someone failed to ID him."

Mateen has spoken out against what his son Omar Mateen did on June 12, when he killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and wounded another 53.

The Clinton campaign released a statement to reporters asserting that it did not specifically invite Seddique Mateen. But the campaign didn't respond to subsequent questions and offered no additional explanation as to why Mateen was at the rally or why he was seated so close to Clinton.

"The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public," a statement from the Clinton campaign said. "This individual wasn't invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event."

The event was promoted on Clinton's presidential campaign website with an open call for all supporters to attend the rally at Osceola Heritage Park Exhibition Hall.

"Join us as we welcome Hillary Clinton to Kissimmee! Be there as she outlines her plan to make the biggest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II during her first 100 days in office," the website invite said.

Those wishing to attend needed to RSVP through the site, a step that ostensibly would have required Mateen to provide his name for admission later.

A spokeswoman refused to respond to additional questions about the vetting of the crowd, if Seddique Mateen RSVP'd through the website, or how he had such a premium seat.

One possible explanation for Mateen's seat? Optics. Campaigns often fill the backdrop with an audience the fits a key demographic, theme or look.

"They were probably going for a look — for diversity in the visual background — and (Mateen) fit the bill," Stipanovich said.

Mateen nearly went unnoticed at the rally. WPTV, the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach, noticed the man in a red baseball cap just a few rows behind Clinton. Reporter Tory Dunnan eventually interviewed Mateen and asked him why he was at the rally.

"Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," Mateen told Dunnan.

When Dunnan asked Mateen if the Clinton campaign knew he was at the rally, he said, "It's a Democratic party, so everyone can join."

Contact Jeremy Wallace at [email protected] or (850)224-7263. Follow @jeremyswallace.

 
Comments

Pinellas Sheriff’s Office accuses 14-year-old of copycat Snapchat school threat

PINELLAS PARK — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office late Saturday said detectives arrested a 14-year-old boy and accused him of posting a threat to a school on his Snapchat account.Edward Charles Osgood, who attends Lealman Innovation Academy, was a...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Ten things to know about Stormy Daniels

Ten things to know about Stormy Daniels

1. Was editor of her high school newspaper, president of her 4-H club.2. Started stripping at age 17 in Baton Rouge, La.3. Made her first porn film with a girlfriend.4. Took her stage name from the Motley Crue bassist, who named his son Storm, and fr...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

MUNICH — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal charges leveled by an...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style fi...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — A red heart-shaped balloon rose above crowd of several hundred people that had gathered at Williams Park on Saturday evening to mourn Wednesday’s school shooting in Broward County and to protest gun violence.Below the balloon, signs ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

TAMPA — In the center of the nightclub, between the cigar case and bustling bar, a giant screen blankets the back wall. Usually, ads for drink specials and coming attractions scroll across.But Friday night, a life-size picture of President Donald Tru...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Man found dead in flaming mobile home

TAMPA — Firefighters found a man dead inside a burned-down mobile home Saturday.Tampa Fire Rescue got a call just after 4:30 p.m. that a single-wide mobile home at the 100 block of East Linebaugh Avenue was in flames.The man’s identity was not releas...
Published: 02/17/18
‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

Warning: This story quotes graphic material.Before he killed 17 people at a South Florida high school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly threatened an ex-classmate who had started dating his former girlfriend, according to a report in Buzzfeed News."I’m going ...
Published: 02/17/18

Police find dead man in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police found a dead man inside an apartment in the 5200 block of Sonora Court Friday after 3 p.m.Who the man is or how long he’s been dead is not yet clear, police said. The victim appears to have been killed in some sort of "homicidal violen...
Published: 02/17/18