Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have been quick to condemn this morning’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, which at the time of writing have left 34 people dead. The bomb blasts, the worst atrocities on Belgian soil since World War II, have also become a political football in the context of the U.S. Presidential race and the ongoing Brexit debate in the UK regarding whether to stay in or out of the European Union. The round-the-clock media coverage of the blasts on networks in Europe and the U.S. is giving politicos a platform to turn tragedy into political opportunity.
Never one to miss a chance to offer an opinion, Donald Trump at first offered a relatively mild message on his Twitter account, calling on Americans to be vigilant. That measured tone was soon eschewed on Fox News, with the former Apprentice star tying the attacks in to his much-criticized calls for tougher immigration laws, notably blocking all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“Brussels was a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime,” added Trump on Fox News’ Fox And Friends. “And now it’s a disaster city. It’s a total disaster, and we have to be very careful in the United States, we have to be very careful and very vigilant as to who we allow in this country. “
Fellow Republican nominee Ted Cruz went even further, using the attacks as an opportunity to blast radical Islam and vowing, somehow, to defeat it if he is elected President.
Leading Democratic contender and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also took to social media to express condolences and resolve.
These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our way of life. They will never succeed. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 22, 2016
Later this morning, Clinton stopped by CNN to “respectfully” tell European counties they had not yet gone far enough in toughening laws that would help authorities nab terrorists in their communities. Meanwhile, the U.S. should, among other fronts, step up efforts to help allies in Europe “take [ISIS] on in the internet. It’s been a major tool for radicalizing and propagandizing,” she said, adding, “We also have to do more to coordinate intelligence efforts between the U.S. and Europe.”
In the UK, where passions have been stirred in recent weeks between those in favor of withdrawing from the European Union in an upcoming referendum — a campaign known as Brexit — the attacks in Brussels, the administrative heart of Europe, gave ammunition to those arguing for the country to back out of the EU.
Right wing columnist Allison Pearson, writing in conservative bible the Telegraph, set off a firestorm with her tweet tying the EU vote directly into the Brussels attacks, describing the city as the Jihadi capital of Europe.
That prompted a chastening response from Sky News’ Kay Burley with an uncharacteristically restrained tweet of her own. Infamous for her brash interviewing style — she once asked the wife of a serial killer if she thought their having a better sex life would have stopped him from murdering people — Burley presented herself as the voice of reason.
Deadline’s Dominic Patten contributed to this report