Hillary Clinton’s campaign said the father of the gunman who killed 49 people in a shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June was not invited to her rally on Monday in Kissimmee, Fla., where he appeared in the crowd behind Clinton as she spoke at the podium.
“It’s a Democratic party, so everyone can join,” he told WPTV. “Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions.”
Clinton’s campaign downplayed Mateen’s attendance.
“The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public,” the campaign said in a statement on Tuesday, the New York Times reported. “This individual wasn’t invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event.”
Clinton spoke about the victims of the Orlando shooting at the beginning of the rally, which took place just outside Orlando.
“I know how many people, family members, loved ones and friends are still grieving and I want them to know that we will be with you, as you rebuild your lives,” she said, according to CBS News.
When asked about attending an event in close proximity to the site of the shooting, Mateen told WPTV that he wished his son had joined the U.S. Army and fought ISIS.
Asked if people would be surprised by his presence at the rally, Mateen said: “Why should they be surprised? I love the United States, and I’ve been living here a long time.”
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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com