Speaking at a campaign event in Greenville, South Carolina on Tuesday, Bill Clinton incorrectly said the married couple who perpetrated a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, had never been to the Middle East.
One of the shooters was raised in the region; the other had made several trips.
The former president was discussing the need to have a robust defense policy without undermining America’s core values when he made the comments.
“We got to have a strong defense, we got to have tough diplomacy. Also, in a world where the borders look more like nets than walls," Clinton said. "Keep in mind, the people that perpetrated that travesty in San Bernardino had never been to the Middle East. They were converted over the social media."
Tashfeen Malik was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia for most of her life. Syed Rizwan Farook, Malik’s American-born husband, had also been to Saudi Arabia multiple times, including for several weeks in 2013 as part of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime.
Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2014 and returned with Malik after they had met online. Soon after, they married in California.
Although Malik expressed her allegiance to jihadist groups through social media, there has been no evidence to formally link the shooters, or their plot, to any larger terrorist organization, and officials have said the couple may have been self-radicalized.
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Nathan McDermott is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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