Even as Egyptian officials were trying to deflect questions about terrorism in connection with the crash of EgyptAir Flight MS804, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was ahead of the later announcement that terrorism was more likely than any mechanical failure.
The plan crashed in the Mediterranean Sea Thursday with 66 people aboard after suddenly veering off course. There were no reports of mechanical troubles, and the weather was reported as clear.
French President François Hollande had initially said terrorism was a possible cause of the crash. Trump then responded with his own assessment of the situation.
Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2016
“Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!” Trump tweeted early Thursday.
Hours later, an Egyptian official who had been saying a number of causes were possible changed his story.
“If you (analyze) the situation properly the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical (problem),” said Egyptian Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy.
Trump’s tweet brought a rejoinder from former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates, who said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that speculation such as Trump’s tweet “prejudges the outcome.”
“The thing that you learn fairly early when you have responsibility is how often the initial reports or information you get on a situation prove to be inaccurate,” Gates said. “With the demands of news media and so on, there’s always pressure to immediately react before you know really what’s going on, and that’s a discipline a lot of politicians, frankly, don’t have, at least until they have responsibility.”
Gates said “it’s always better to wait until you actually know what the facts are before you open up.”
“Let’s just suppose that it turns out not to be a terrorist event … then what do you say having made these allegations and so on,” he added.
However, others thought Trump was right to speak out.
“He is absolutely right to imply that if this crash is indeed related to terrorism that Europe really needs to wake up,” wrote Andrew Mark Miller on Young Conservatives. “We have seen attack after attack in this region and clearly there are some major gaps when it comes to fighting terrorism. While many people disagree on Trump on a few issues, most people can agree that national security is something he takes very seriously.”