Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has caused an uproar with his relentless scapegoating of Muslim Americans. As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, he refused to broaden his terrorism hearings into any non-Muslim groups. And given many of King’s public statements about Muslim Americans, including an argument that Muslim Americans aren’t Americans when it comes to war, many have accused him of prejudice.
In a public television appearance aired today with Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), King elaborated on his exclusive focus on Muslim Americans as terrorist threats. In his remarks, King justified racial or ethnic profiling as well as religious profiling. King reasoned that if racist white terrorists were suspected of an attack on an African American community, the same standard against Muslims could be applied to “a white guy walking down around Harlem”:
KING: I’m just saying, a person’s religious background or ethnicity can be a factor, one of the things to look at. For instance, if I’m told the White Citizens Council, the Ku Klux Klan, is going to attack Harlem, I’d be more suspicious of a white guy walking down around Harlem in a very African American neighborhood. To me, that’s a logical a thing. Should you harass? No.
PASCRELL: We gotta be above it as leaders. I know you are, I would think most of the time, you have to be above what the suspicion ordinarily should be and point out what is right and what is wrong.
KING: There can be reasonable suspicion though. There can be reasonable suspicion though.
King’s argument for arguably unconstitutional racial and religious profiling — rather than behavioral profiling — is curious given America’s recent history with terror threats. As ThinkProgress’ Zaid Jilani has reported, there have been twice as many non-Muslim terrorist plots in the U.S. since 9/11 than plots by Muslims. For instance, there have been 27 terror plots by white supremacist groups. So King’s white terrorist hypothetical is real, yet he has never called any hearings on white supremacist terrorism, or called for whites to be ethnically profiled.