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Bill Nelson says hate calls are pouring in

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Florida’s senior Sen. Bill Nelson told the U.S. Senate today that hate calls are pouring into his Orlando office today about the Pulse nightclub massacre and Nelson implored that America has got to find a way to unite.

Nelson, an Orlando resident who spent most of the past two days at the Orlando command center, said it didn’t start out that way. On Sunday all the calls to his Senate office were from Orlandoans, expressing grief and shock and looking for outlets to offer comfort.

And that, he said is the spirit he sees in Orlando, seeking to both grieve and heal at the same time.

“That’s been quite a contrast to the 95 percent of the hundreds and hundreds of calls that the Orlando office has received today,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of those calls have been hateful.”

His office confirmed that it has been inundated with more than 600 calls, “most not from Orlando,” full of hate, mostly toward Muslims, sometimes toward gun control advocates, occasionally toward gays.

“What does that say about us as a nation? Will we in fact heal? What does it say about us as a nation deep inside?” Nelson wondered.

“Where have we lost the teachings in almost all the major religions clearly in the holy scriptures of the Old Testament, clearly in the New Testament, and also in the Quran?” he continued. “And you’ll recognize these words if I say it in the Old English. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

“Put it in modern English: that is, to treat others as you would want to be treated,” he added. “And yet what we find is that in our society today, there are folks that want to divide instead of unify, and this killer is a good example.”

Nelson expressed confidence that deep down that’s not who Americans are, and he expects the true American character to prevail.

“We are a character of a people that is compassionate and generous and kind and respectful,” he said.

Nelson expressed confidence that “once the dots are connected” the investigation will find that the killer Omar Mateen was inspired both by ISIS and hatred of gays.

He implored his colleagues to imagine the families at Orlando Regional Medical Center grieving and hoping and praying.

“We are, as Americans, we are ladies and gentlemen. We can express ourselves, as has been the tradition on the floor of this Senate. In the heat of political debate, we can sharply differ, but we can be respectful of the other fellow’s point of view. That’s America, and until we finally come to that conclusion and insist on this aberrant behavior is stopped — until that happens, we will still be grieving,” he concluded.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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