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As news updates rolled in about Sunday’s shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, politicians, public figures, activists and journalists took to Facebook and Twitter to send out unfiltered statements about the significance of the massacre.

For prominent politicians in and seeking office, the shooting represented an obligation to comment as well as a challenge, as the tragedy touched on several highly charged issues and themes in the public sphere, including but not limited to: LGBTQ rights, homophobia, Islamophobia, gun control and terrorism.

Given the context of the ongoing presidential contest, several current and former lawmakers, as well as candidates, were prompted by the incident to ‘get ahead of the story’ by defining the narrative and interpreting the meaning of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Many took the opportunity to draw connections between the event and causes that they support or condemn. In so doing, they negotiated, with varying degrees of success, a fine line between commentary and opportunism.

Below is a brief and incomplete roundup of comments issued on social media by political players of different descriptions, beginning with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, who characteristically issued one of the most inflammatory remarks from his milieu:

Later on Sunday, Trump, apparently undeterred by critics who accused him of putting taking credit for his prior, controversial warnings about terrorism above recognizing the seriousness of the moment, followed up that tweet with others along the same lines:

However, the ban on Muslims that Trump had called for last December would not have prevented the Orlando shooting. The alleged gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was an American citizen born in the U.S.

Regardless of whether the facts about Trump’s ban actually squared with what he took credit for, the point of broadcasting that message might have been different, judging by this comment from a self-described Democratic voter sent in response to the first of his tweets posted above:

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton responded to the news of with their own Facebook posts and tweets that reflected their political leanings. For her part, Hillary Clinton situated the news about the shooting within specific frames of terrorism, like Trump, as well as law enforcement, gun control and LGBT rights:

Clinton’s attempt to include causes important to liberals and conservatives alike points to both her close ties to Washington’s establishment and her interest in winning votes that might otherwise go to Trump.

For his part, Bernie Sanders kept it basic while keeping his focus on Sunday’s victims in a message of support posted early in the day on Facebook:

Sen. Sanders’ did not initially use his Twitter feed, as Trump and Clinton had, to draw connections between the Pulse massacre and topics he has repeatedly stressed during his campaign. That came later. The Twitter account managed by his campaign first posted the same statement issued on Facebook, but then another, more combative tweet appeared, indicating Sanders’ support of the use of force against Islamic State:

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein also weighed in, first with a Facebook post:

… and then in a series of tweets, including these, which took up discussions about gun control, state-sponsored violence, racism and immigration:

Sarah Palin, who knows about leveraging Facebook to influence the news cycle (see: death panels) and who has endorsed Trump’s candidacy, echoed the presumptive Republican nominee’s emphasis on Islamic terrorism and pushed back on calls for stricter gun control measures (via Facebook):

Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2016 presidential nominee, released a single, simple statement on Twitter:

As mentioned on Truthdig’s live blog, Sunday’s mass shooting presented a particular test for conservatives who claim their identities based on their social as well as economic and other policy positions. Suddenly, they were confronted with the need to publicly mourn for members of a demographic whose interests they had opposed, along with clear evidence that the primary narrative that defined the event was about homophobia and a hate crime enacted on an unprecedented scale.

The LGBT advocacy site AMERICAblog, for one, was quick to post a comprehensive takedown of such right-wing figures as onetime GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former GOP presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, calling them all “homophobes” who are “suddenly concerned about gays” following the attack on Pulse Orlando.

Below are some of the tweets from the list of legislators name-checked in AMERICAblog’s story:

Rep. Ryan circled back to Twitter after that last post to send out his own, terrorism-oriented statement about the Orlando attack:

Georgia Rep. Steven Smith’s response to the news also served as an example of the ambivalence certain lawmakers showed in supporting LGBT victims of Sunday’s shooting while refusing to support the community’s greater cause:

Judging by these various takes on the same occurrence, the Orlando massacre apparently looked quite different depending on the positions and ambitions of the various high-profile parties doing the work of interpreting Sunday’s tragedy. Those who lean to the right, or played to both sides, saw terrorism — Islamic terrorism, specifically — as their preferred explanation, while homophobia and gun control were highly cited issues on the left.

Political jostling aside, the most powerful post from any source on Sunday took the form of a one-sentence status update on Pulse Orlando’s Facebook page that read,”Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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