Gaffe Track: Seddique Mateen's Clinton Cameo

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Hillary Clinton

The gaffe: Who’s that standing behind the Democratic nominee during a rally in Kissimmee, Florida? Oh, just Seddique Mateen, the father of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen and a man who has espoused pro-Taliban and anti-gay views, in addition to peculiar statements suggesting he holds some power in Afghanistan.

The defense: In a statement to WPTV, the Clinton campaign said, “The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public. This individual wasn't invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event.” (Mateen also said he had just decided to go.)

Why it matters (or doesn’t): This isn’t a major gaffe by the candidate, but it’s sort of baffling. Sure, events are open to the public, but how did staffers allow their boss to get in a situation where she was standing in front of Mateen, sitting somewhat prominently in the grandstand? He’s not the name you want in headlines with Hillary Clinton. Perhaps Trump was right: “We have no idea where they come from, we have no idea who the hell they are. We know they believe in certain things that we don’t want to believe in.”

The lesson: Screen anyone who might appear on screen.