McCain Says He 'Misspoke' When He Blamed Obama for Orlando

GOP senator had said president was "directly responsible" for the attack

Arizona Sen. John McCain said he meant to criticize President Barack Obama's national security decisions, and not the president himself. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. John McCain is walking back his comments that President Barack Obama is "directly responsible" for the attack in Orlando, Florida over the weekend.  

On Thursday, the Arizona Republican blamed Obama for the Sunday morning shooting at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead, and is being investigated as an act of terror.  

“He pulled everybody out of Iraq, and I predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked, and there would be attacks on the United States of America,” McCain said according to The Washington Post , using an alternative name for the Islamic State or ISIL. “It’s a matter of record, so he is directly responsible.”  

[ Republicans and Democrats Diverge After Orlando Attack ]  

In a statement, McCain walked back those comments, saying that he "misspoke."  

"I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible," McCain said. "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 [the Islamic State terror group]," McCain said. "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.”  

[ Rubio Joins Obama on Air Force One to Visit Orlando Families ]  

McCain's comment drew sharp criticism from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's office.

"Sen. McCain’s unhinged comments are just the latest proof that Senate Republicans are puppets of Donald Trump," said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for the Nevada Democrat.

Trump had previously implied that Obama knew more about the Orlando attack. This week Trump also tweeted an article that said the Obama administration secretly supported ISIS.

Contact Bowman at   bridgetbowman@rollcall.com    and follow her on Twitter  @bridgetbhc .

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