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Father of Orlando Shooter Attends Hillary Clinton Rally in Florida


“This individual wasn’t invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event," said the Clinton campaign in a statement.

Hillary Clinton opened a Monday campaign rally in Kissimmee, Fla., just 20 miles south of Orlando, by taking a moment to acknowledge the "many people, family members, loved ones, and friends [who] are still grieving" the 49 people killed June 12 when Omar Mateen opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub, a popular gay bar.

What Clinton allegedly didn't know is that seated directly behind her at Monday's rally was the father of that gunman, Seddique Mateen.

West Palm Beach NBC affiliate WPTV was the first to notice Mateen in the crowd positioned behind Clinton, just a few people away from a woman wearing a shirt with a rainbow heart and the phrase "Orlando United," a fundraiser for the city's OneOrlando Fund, which benefits the victims of the deadly attack.

Mateen told WPTV that he is a member of the Democratic Party and that he received a general invitation to the event sent out to all party members in the area. He repeatedly deflected WPTV reporter Tory Dunnan's questions about whether he thought it was appropriate for him to attend the rally, so close to the site where his son committed the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

When Dunnan randomly caught up with Mateen at a rest stop en route to West Palm Beach later that same day, Mateen displayed a banner he planned to unfurl at the rally and told the reporter that he doesn't understand why anyone would be surprised by his attendance.

"Why should they be surprised?" Mateen asked. "I love the United States, and I've been living here a long time."

"Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," Mateen added. The banner he planned to display proclaimed that Clinton "makes the biggest investment since WWII," is "good for national security," "told the truth about Benghazi," and supports "gun control laws."

Mateen, who has previously apologized for his son's violence, and told The Advocate that he is "90 percent, 95 percent" sure his son wasn't gay, also told WPTV Monday that he wishes his son had "joined the Army and fought and destroyed ISIS."

Clinton campaign officials say they had no knowledge of Mateen's attendance, as the event was open to the public. It remains unclear how Mateen ended up with a seat directly behind the former secretary of State, who just last month made an emotional visit to the Pulse memorial in Orlando.

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

Right-wing pundits and media were quick to claim that Mateen's presence at the rally was orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, with former Alaska governor and failed vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeting out a story that claimed "Florida DNC Invites Orlando Terrorist Father to Hillary Clinton Rally."

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