Tennessee political reaction to Orlando attack falls along terrorism, gun control and LGBT fault line

U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann speaks during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board and reporters in the newspaper's office Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga.
photo U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann speaks during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board and reporters in the newspaper's office Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga.

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NASHVILLE - Tennessee political reaction to Sunday's deadly mass shooting at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub is ranging - and sometimes raging - across the nation's fault lines of Islamic terrorism, gun control and LGBT discrimination.

As U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., delivered harsh criticism of Islamic terrorists and political correctness, another congressman from the Volunteer State, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, called on Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow gun control bills to come to the chamber floor.

photo Chris Anderson

Meanwhile, Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson, who is openly gay, ignited a Twitter furor when he challenged Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, state Sens. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West on legislation that LGBT activists have charged discriminate against them.

"In wake of the Orlando murders, do you regret your hateful attacks on the LGBT community and your incitement of this?" Anderson tweeted, prompting a heated response from West and continuing response and counter-response.

Fleischmann on Sunday appeared on Fox News where he expressed sympathy for the 49 victims killed by Omar Mateen, a U.S.-born Muslim, at Orlando's Pulse club in what has been characterized as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The White House and FBI are portraying Mateen as a "homegrown extremist" who voiced support for various Islamic extremist organizations. Mateen's father told reporters his son was once upset when he saw two men kissing in public.

Fleischmann, who is from Ooltewah, pointed to Chattanooga's experience last July when 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed five U.S. servicemen at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Higway.

The Kuwait-born Muslim, who was a U.S. citizen, was said by family members to be mentally troubled. The FBI later said Abdulazeez was "inspired" by terrorist propaganda when carrying out his bloody assault.

While on Fox, Fleischmann touted his bill requiring the federal government to do more to combat and counter Islamic State propaganda in the U.S.

"We've got to take the fight right to ISIS and we've got to beat them here and we've got to beat them abroad. It's time to be correct, not politically correct," Fleischmann said.

In a statement, Cohen called Mateen's attack "a hate crime and likely an act of terrorism.

"While the shooter is reported to have vowed allegiance to the leader of ISIS and is Muslim, we must not do what ISIS wants and tie one deranged, mentally ill murderer to others who share his religion," the Memphis Democrat said.

Cohen also challenged House Speaker Ryan "to bring a bill to the House floor banning all assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Outside of our military, no one in this country needs an assault rifle to defend themselves or their homes. They are often used in these mass shootings."

In the Sunday Twitter fight involving city Anderson, West said, "This was Islamic attack & I made no such 'hateful attacks.' But I don't expect honesty from @chrismanderson."

Countered Anderson: "You've been inciting violence against LGBT Americans for years. The Chattanooga Tea Party is built on it. Shame on you."

To which West said, "Shame on you Councilman for perpetrating a lie. So childish to go to Twitter to air you political grievances."

In a news release, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, said, "This is one of the worst days in American history: our largest mass murder, more ISIS terrorism on U.S. soil, and the worst hate crime ever all in the same horrific nightmare.

"I stand with all the victims and their families and loved ones, particularly with the LGBT community that was deliberately targeted," Cooper added.

Most Republican elected officials tweeted their thoughts instead of issuing news releases.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., got in his own take with a tweet: "Islamic terrorism is real and it is beyond time we started treating it as such. Muslims across the U.S need to disavow radical Islam!"

Haslam on Sunday tweeted: "Flags over State Capitol & buildings to fly @ half-staff thru sunset 6/16 in memory of victims of violent attack in Orlando. #PrayForOrlando."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., tweeted he was "Saddened by the tragedy that occurred overnight in Orlando. Praying for the victims, their families, and our dedicated first responders."

He later added: "Appreciate the Christians, Muslims and leaders of all faiths who have stepped forward to condemn the tragic terrorist attack in Orlando."

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., tweeted that "my heart goes out to the family and loved ones of those killed in [Sunday] night's horrific act of terror."