McCain Backs Off Blaming Obama for Orlando Shooting, but Twitter Ain't Buying It

Social Media 101: If you're a politician and you say something dumb, Twitter will pitilessly mock you for it.

Case in point: U.S. Senator John McCain.

While answering questions from reporters Thursday morning, McCain literally blamed President Barack Obama for the horrific events at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando this past weekend that left 50 people dead and more than 50 wounded.

"Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, Al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS. And ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama's failures," the five-term senator from Arizona said.

Pressed for clarification, McCain repeated that Obama is "directly responsible, because he pulled everybody out of Iraq." McCain added that he had "predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked and there would be attacks on the United States of America."

According to reports from the FBI, the shooter, Omar Mateen, called police from inside the nightclub and pledged allegiance to ISIS. He also posted about the group on Facebook. Whether he had any formal ties to ISIS is under investigation, but authorities believe he was most likely "self-radicalized."

Meanwhile, McCain's critics jumped on the Senator's statement. 

“Elected leaders have a moral duty to work together to root out terrorism and keep Americans safe. But today we saw John McCain cross a dangerous line in comments that undermine our Commander in Chief on national-security issues — at the very moment the president was in Orlando to comfort victims' families," said Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is attempting to unseat McCain in this year's Arizona Senate race.

"[McCain's] unhinged comments are just the latest proof that Senate Republicans are puppets of Donald Trump," a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told the Associated Press.

McCain soon issued a statement claiming he'd misspoken:

“I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the President himself. As I have said, President Obama’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 led to the rise of ISIL. I and others have long warned that the failure of the President’s policy to deny ISIL safe haven would allow the terrorist organization to inspire, plan, direct, or conduct attacks on the United States and Europe as they have done in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, and now Orlando.”

But the damage was already done.

Chastising the senator from Arizona for everything from his vote in favor of the war in Iraq to the money he has received from the NRA to his support of Sarah Palin, the Twitter trolls came out in full force.

"If you can't speak responsibly about an important topic, maybe you ought to retire," tweeted @socrates_99.

"It's always misspeaking after you've taken your cheap shot," opined @Tom206Sports.

Some users likened McCain to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump: "Your blaming the President for Orlando is beneath you. Outrageous! You don't deserve re-election! Sounds like Trump remarks," tweeted @jimj02115.

Others were more blunt: "Fucking disgraceful," wrote @Leftdescending.

Here's a round-up of the more colorful tweets:

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser