On 9 August 2016, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeted a link to an article reporting that Seddique Mateen (father of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen) was invited to attend a Hillary Clinton rally in Florida and appeared at the event:
Holy cow, this is EPIC. Lets see if the national media reports on this story. The Florida DNC sent a rally invitation to the father of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Terrorist, Omar Mateen.
You might remember all of those pictures of Seddique Mateen in Washington DC meeting with State Department officials and Democrat members of congress.
Well apparently Omar’s father, Seddique Mateen, a full-throated DNC supporter, accepted the invitation and was caught on camera sitting directly behind Hillary Clinton and cheering for her during the event in Kissimmee.
The article affirmatively asserted that Mateen's presence was due to the fact that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in Florida had invited him to attend the event but did not document that such an invitation had been extended to him. Palm Beach television station WPTV spoke with Mateen afterwards and specifically asked him if the Clinton campaign knew he would be at the event, but he made no mention of an invitation, saying only that "It's a Democratic party, so everyone can join":
[We] asked Mateen what he was thinking about when Clinton spoke about the Orlando incident.
"We've been cooperating with the federal government, and that's about it," he said. "Thank you." Mateen didn't want to answer any other questions, but just hours later, we ran into him by chance at a rest stop on the way back to West Palm Beach. He wanted to do an interview and show us a sign he made for Clinton.
"Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," he said.
We asked what went into his decision to go to the event right near Orlando, where the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened.
"I spoke a lot about that and wish that my son joined the Army and fought ISIS. That would be much better," he said.
When questioned whether Clinton's campaign knew he was going to the event and sitting directly behind the presidential candidate, Mateen said, "It's a Democratic party, so everyone can join."
NPR contacted the Clinton campaign about the rumor after Mateen was spotted in the crowd at the Kissimmee event and was told that Mateen "wasn't invited as a guest" and that "the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event":
A Clinton campaign official tells NPR that the rally in Kissimmee, Fla., was open to the public.
"This individual [Mateen] wasn't invited as a guest, and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event," the Clinton campaign official said in an email exchange.
Not only was Mateen at the event, but he was also positioned behind Clinton, so he was visible in photos and video of the candidate's speech. Mateen is recognizable, in part, because he did so many interviews after the nightclub attack.
Both Mateen and the Clinton campaign explained his appearance at the rally as a function of the event's being "open to the public," and neither party stated or implied that any invitation had been extended to him or accepted. Although it's possible he learned of the event through a DNC or campaign mailing,
we have been unable to turn up any information documenting that Mateen was actually an invited guest rather than a general member of the public who attended the rally out of personal interest.