The following dispatch was sent by our AJC colleague Ernie Suggs, who is in Orlando this week:
ORLANDO – Hours before Air Force One is set to touch down in Orlando, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has been in a tense standoff with President Barack Obama, said he wants to rid his state of “radical Islam,” and toughen immigration standards in the wake of Sunday’s terror attack that left 49 people dead.
“It’s evil,” Scott told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m responsible for 20 million people in my state and 100 million tourists. I don’t want radical Islam in my state.”
It has been a tense week for the Republican governor, whose state was hit with the worst domestic terrorist attack since 9/11.
Authorities say that Omar Mateen, who was actually not an immigrant and was born in New York City, committed the attack on Pulse, the gay nightclub in the heart of downtown Orlando.
It was Latino night at the club that night and most of the people killed were Hispanic.
“This tragedy was clearly an attack on our gay community and clearly an attack on our Latino community,” Scott said. “I have done everything I can to organize services and I have asked the president to do the same.”
Aside from dealing with families and coordinating local efforts and investigations, Scott has spent several days stressing the fact that George W. Bush and Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump called him personally to express condolences.
He said he had not heard from President Obama.
On Monday, Scott who is a Trump supporter agreed with the businessman after he suggested that Obama has an ulterior motive in his refusal to utter the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“I think what he’s saying is – we have to have a president that is going to focus day-in and day-out on something that’s important to our country. Is he destroying ISIS?” Scott told CNN Monday. “I support Donald Trump because I believe he’s a businessperson that’s going to get the economy going, but also he’s going to focus on how we destroy ISIS.”
Scott, said Obama finally called him Wednesday afternoon, four days after the attack.
Obama is scheduled to visit Orlando on Thursday to meet with family members of the victims.
On Wednesday night, Scott made an appearance at Christ Church Unity Orlando, which held an emotional service for the dead and wounded.
The Rev. Cynthia Alice Anderson, senior minister of the church, said she did not want the services to be “politicized.”
Scott sat through the whole service, but did not speak. After the service, he spoke with and mingled with people who attended the program. He told them about meeting with survivors and parents of the dead.
“I’ve got daughters the same age as some of those who died,” Scott said. “And by the grace of God, my goal is that this never happens again.”
Scott is scheduled to greet Obama on the tarmac Thursday.