The Las Vegas massacre now goes down as the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. That broke the grisly record set by the Orlando massacre at Pulse, a queer nightclub, little over a year ago.
The starkly different responses from Donald Trump to each of these horrific events reveal his bias and bigotry, his monumental hypocrisy, and his lies and empty promises all in one.
Shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting in June of 2016, candidate Trump gave a speech focused solely on the mass shooting in which he said, “Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT community,” and actually asked, in comparing himself to Hillary Clinton, “Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?”
Today we know from his actions ― from banning transgender people from the military to calling for allowing employers and businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian and bisexual people ― that Trump is in fact the most anti-LGBTQ president in modern American history. His statements back then expose the blatant lies and hypocrisy of a man who would say anything to get elected. (Much of the media of course allowed it to go unchecked, as Trump was making promises at the same time to enemies of LGBTQ people while many prominent political reporters ignored those promises while propping Trump up as LGBTQ-friendly.)
Trump, displaying his vitriolic bigotry, also said in that speech that “a radical Islamic terrorist” perpetrated the mass murder. He used the shooting to promote his restrictive immigration polices and what would become his Muslim bans. “Hillary Clinton’s catastrophic immigration plan will bring vastly more radical Islamic immigration into this country, threatening not only our society but our entire way of life,” he bellowed.
But in fact, the shooter, Omar Mateen, was an American citizen, a man who grew up within a homophobic American culture in which the extremist Christian evangelical ideology of people like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson ― Trump supporters― has promoted the kind of hate and bigotry against LGBTQ people that has led to violence many times. Mateen was raised within the Muslim faith, like millions of other people who peacefully practice their faith, but wasn’t even very religiously observant. He had no ties to any terrorist groups. But he was very much a homophobe, so much so that he’d become angry, according to his father, upon seeing two men kiss in front of his son in Miami.
After the Orlando massacre he was all about protecting American’s from such violence ― when he could blame it on a foreign ideology.
A month after the Pulse mass shooting, in his speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump again referred back to the massacre, promising he “will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of the hateful, foreign ideology, believe me.”
This, in retrospect, was a curious and revealing statement. It once again echoed Trump’s false claim that the Orlando massacre was an act of foreign terrorism inspired by an extremist Islamic ideology, and it promoted the false notion that he supported LGBTQ people.
But the most telling word in the statement was “protect.” Trump of course hasn’t done anything to protect LGBTQ people in the U.S., and has only harmed them further. But more than that, he was vowing in that statement to protect Americans after a brutal mass shooting. And yet, he hasn’t made the same vow regarding the Las Vegas massacre.
Trump has instead called the Las Vegas massacre an “act of pure evil” and offered condolences to the victims’ families. He visited the city and heralded the heroism of the first responders ― but discussed nothing about preventing further attacks. Some have criticized him for not calling the mass shooting “terrorism” ― opining that this was a double standard, since the killer is white and not a Muslim, which Trump would jump on immediately ― but as of right now we still don’t know the motive of the shooter, Stephen Paddock. Still, there is something Trump could right now vow to “protect” Americans from: gun violence and the proliferation of weapons, and components for weapons, that allow for these kinds of attacks, in which so many can be shot and killed in a matter of seconds.
Of course, Trump became president with huge support and money from the NRA, and there’s almost zero chance he will divert from the group’s agenda. Asked by a reporter about the “gun violence problem” while on his trip to Las Vegas, Trump responded,“We’re not going to talk about that today. We won’t talk about that.”
I think back to Trump’s dark inauguration speech, and his reference to “American carnage” and how he vowed that it will “stop right here.” He was referring to his distorted perspective on the American economy. But if there’s anything that exemplifies the idea of American carnage it’s what happened in Las Vegas this week.
And if Trump wants to help stop events like that in the future and “protect” Americans from them, he can do so by getting behind stricter gun laws. After the Orlando massacre he was all about protecting American’s from such violence ― when he could lay the blame on a foreign ideology and when enough people would believe it.
But now that’s it’s more clearly about access to dangerous weapons (which of course was the case as well in Orlando) ― and very much about an American ideology ― he’s mum on protecting Americans from harm. Once again, his lies, bigotry and hypocrisy are on full display.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile