Developments Unfold In Orlando Nightclub Shooting
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And, David Greene, you are coming to us again this morning from Orlando, Fla. where we're continuing our coverage of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
That's right. Renee, we're broadcasting this morning from right across the street from a hospital where there are many who were badly injured in that attack on the nightclub, who are still fighting for their lives this morning. And I just want to take you to the scene in this city last night. We were in downtown Orlando.
And there was this crowd of people filling this grassy plaza at sunset. Everyone had little, tiny candles. This was a vigil to remember the 49 people who were killed.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) And I see your true colors shining through. I see your true colors, and that's why I love you. So don't be afraid...
GREENE: People singing along in the crowd there, Renee. And so, you know, we have been working throughout the night to learn as much as we can about this tragedy and the man who carried it out - his name Omar Mateen, the killer. And when he walked into the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning, it turns out it might not have been his first time in that gay bar.
There are reports that he visited the bar at least a dozen times and that he also used a social media app that's intended for gay men. And let's talk about this with NPR's Jeff Brady, who's been looking into these reports. He joins me now. Jeff, good morning.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So let's start about - with this dating app. What do we know here?
BRADY: The app, it's called Jack'd. And it's a hook up and dating app for gay men. And the Los Angeles Times reports that a man here in Orlando claims Mateen messaged him on the app on and off for more than a year. This man, Kevin West, he says he even saw Mateen near Pulse before the shooting. And he's reportedly turned his phone over to authorities.
When this story came out last night, I tried to reach West to confirm this but haven't been able to do that yet.
GREENE: OK, so one report like this, I mean, maybe you wouldn't take it seriously. But you're hearing there are others who actually saw Omar Mateen at Pulse and not on the night that the killings took place.
BRADY: Right, the local paper, the Orlando Sentinel, talked with three other men who hang out at Pulse. And they say Mateen was there repeatedly. One man told the paper that Mateen was there at least a dozen times and even talked about having a wife and child. Another man who told the Sentinel that he saw Mateen at the Pulse said he witnessed a violent outburst.
And yet, another man said Mateen had been a customer at Pulse for years.
GREENE: So what might this tell us about Omar Mateen, the killer?
BRADY: Well, you know, there are a number of explanations here. I mean, maybe he was someone who was in the closet. Maybe he had other motivations. We don't - we just don't know. You can bet law enforcement is looking into these reports, though. And I guess with something like a dating app, presumably, there's a digital trail that can be followed.
And, you know, just kind of stepping back from all this, you have to wonder a little bit, a lot of us have been assuming his religion was the reason he did this. But already, there are some questions about what role his Muslim faith played in all this. He told the 911 operator that he pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
But he apparently also looked up to a man who died as a suicide bomber while fighting the Islamic State. It's really puzzling. But new information is emerging about Mateen. Who he is, why he did this just may be more complicated than we thought it was at first.
GREENE: OK, so, Renee, new information coming about Omar Mateen from our colleague here in Orlando with me, Jeff Brady.
MONTAGNE: And as we learn, David, more about the possible motivation here, let's remember, as Jeff just said, that Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. And there's been a lot of debate about what language to use when we talk about the ideology that may have inspired him. Republican Donald Trump and many on the right say it's "radical Islam." And that's in quotes.
But Democrat Hillary Clinton used a different term yesterday. She called it radical Islamism. NPR's Brian Naylor says it's not just a debate over semantics.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: When he hosted a White House summit on combating violent extremism last year, President Obama explained why he wouldn't use the term radical Islamic terrorism to describe groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State or al-Qaida. Such groups, he said, did not represent Islam, nor were their leaders religious leaders.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And we are not at war with Islam.
OBAMA: We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.
NAYLOR: In refusing to use radical Islam, Obama was following a precedent set by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, who said the U.S. was engaged in not a campaign against the Muslim faith but in a campaign against evil. Soner Cagaptay (ph) of The Washington Institute agrees the term radical Islam is an incorrect way to refer to Isis.
SONER CAGAPTAY: It is not an Islamic group. It does not represent Muslims. So I think it's wrong to call it radical Islamic. It's a radical Islamist group.
NAYLOR: Cagaptay says it's not a matter of mincing words.
CAGAPTAY: It's when you say Islamic, you're talking about an adjective of Muslims. And when we say Islamism, you're talking about an ideology, a dystopian ideology, that tries to recruit from among Muslims. But obviously, these two things are extremely different.
NAYLOR: Cagaptay points out that the vast majority of Muslims reject ISIS and have themselves been its victims. But many, including Trump, say it's political correctness that keep Obama and Democrats from using the phrase. Here's Trump in New Hampshire yesterday criticizing his likely Democratic opponent, Clinton.
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DONALD TRUMP: Yet, Hillary Clinton, for months, and despite so many attacks, repeatedly refused to even say the words radical Islam.
NAYLOR: Clinton still hasn't used the phrase. But on NPR yesterday, she said this.
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HILLARY CLINTON: You know, whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I'm happy to say either.
NAYLOR: Mark Dubowitz is director of the right-leaning Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He thinks Clinton is correct to refer to Islamism, but he disagrees with Obama and says words do matter.
MARK DUBOWITZ: The president's right that it's a perversion of Islam. But the president is wrong in not describing the nature of the ideology and the theology that is being used to mobilize and motivate these adherents to carry out these terrorist atrocities.
NAYLOR: And whether Trump is being boldly politically incorrect by referring to radical Islam or Clinton and Obama are right, that the term only legitimizes terrorists' claims their actions are based on the Islamic faith, both sides see the language they use as a way of framing the political debate.
GREENE: All right, that was NPR's Brian Naylor. And we are here in Orlando broadcasting this morning. And I want to bring in another voice here. It's my colleague Eric Westervelt. And, Eric, you have been looking specifically at Omar Mateen.
And just listening to what we've heard so far, we've talked about possible motivations, this debate that Brian Naylor just talked about, language to use, radical Islam versus radical Islamism, I just wonder, - do we know - was Omar Mateen, quote, unquote, "radicalized?"
ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Good morning, David. Yeah, it's still unclear how much Mateen was really motivated by jihadist ideology or simply hate. That's still under investigation. We just don't know. I mean, I spent some time down at the mosque and community in Fort Pierce where he worshiped for many years and where his community is active, his family is active.
People there, you know, are trying to come to terms with this attack just like the rest of the community here. I mean, this - I'd say this is a very modest, almost rundown mosque, David, on a sleepy street in Fort Pierce. It was Ramadan. The mosque was busy. Members were preparing the evening meal, iftar.
The place smelled of the evening food. There was a sign-up sheet for members to sponsor these evening meals. And one name near the top was Omar Mateen's father, Seddique. So the father, at least, is clearly a, you know, an active member of the mosque and the Muslim community down there.
GREENE: And did you speak to some people about Omar Mateen and whether they knew him?
WESTERVELT: Yeah, they knew the father better. But I spoke with several, you know, who had met Omar Mateen. You know, many said few in the mosque really got to know him well, David, that, you know, unlike his dad, he kept to himself. He was polite and nice. But he didn't really stick out. Let's hear from one worshiper. His name is Bedar Bekht. He's a member of this mosque.
He's been there for a dozen years. He remembers Mateen as a quiet guy who would come into the mosque, settle into a corner for prayers and then quickly leave.
BEDAR BEKHT: In not even my wildest dream I could've imagined. When I saw his picture - I'm still shocked. I mean, when I go to bed, I still imagine him sitting there in the corner. I mean, how can you do something like that? What can click you? What can make you do - what kind of thinking, you know? So, yeah, I have no answer. I wish I had some.
GREENE: You know, Eric, I think about - I mean, there was an imam here in Orlando last night at that vigil talking about, I mean, how peaceful the Muslim community is and how they are horrified by what has happened here. You know, here's someone at this mosque who is completely shocked by this.
So, I mean, if - how might he, Mateen, have become radicalized if, you know, in this situation, this context?
WESTERVELT: Well, I asked that of a lot of worshipers, and, you know, they quickly blame the Internet, the Internet. It's, in many ways, obviously a lot more complex than that. But they're struggling to come to terms with, you know, they know radicalization is a reality. But what do they do to stop it? How do they flag people who are leaning towards extremism?
How do they intervene, especially when someone, David, hasn't committed a crime or really made an explicit threat?
GREENE: OK, we've been listening to our colleague Eric Westervelt, who visited the mosque in Fort Pierce, Fla., where Omar Mateen attended and some people remember him there. Eric, thanks a lot for all your reporting. We appreciate it.
WESTERVELT: You're welcome.
GREENE: All right, we're reporting this morning from Orlando. We're going to be following this story all day long. Just to wrap up, a vigil took place in downtown Orlando last night. A bell rang out 49 times to remember the 49 victims in the tragedy early Sunday morning when Omar Mateen carried out a massacre inside a gay nightclub. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.