Despite the discovery of debris from a Cairo-bound airliner that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, there are still few answers, so far, as to the genesis of the tragedy.
But don’t tell that to Donald Trump.
Upon hearing the news, the presumptive Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency immediately denounced it as the work of Islamic terrorists. Refusing to wait for anything resembling an official report from authorities, he knee-jerked a tweet stating that Muslim extremists were to blame and demanding to know: “When will we get tough?”
Later, at a New Jersey fundraiser, Trump, as he is wont to do, upped the ante, assuring his audience that the plane, which left Paris with 66 people on board, was “blown out of the sky,” calling anyone who doubted that “100 percent wrong” and slamming his Democratic likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, for regularly declining to use the phrase “radical Islamic terror.”
Meanwhile, as France and the United States joined Egypt and Greece in what’s now officially a recovery mission, officials carefully avoided speaking in absolutes. While Egypt seemed to be leaning toward the theory that terrorism, and not mechanical failure, brought down EgyptAir Flight 804, its civil aviation minister, Sherif Fathy, said his office would continue to refer to the aircraft as missing until any debris is found.
“I don’t want to go to speculation,” he said. “I don’t want to go to assumptions — like others.”
Those who would defend Trump’s rush to judgment might point out that he was right when he quickly declared the deadly shootings in San Bernardino, California, last December a terrorist act. Then again, his legion of critics might counter that he arrived at that conclusion via ethnic profiling, insisting that the suspects’ names were enough to link them to terrorism.
There’s been no such hint in the case of Flight 804. But it was headed for a majority-Muslim country, and to some people that seems to be all the information necessary.
Clinton told CNN later in the day that “it does appear it was an act of terrorism.”
But she also reminded U.S. voters and the world at large of the perils of careless saber rattling and noted that “we have seen how Donald Trump is being used to essentially be a recruiter for more people to join the cause of terrorism.”