ThinkProgress filed this report from the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, MN.In 2003, Lt. Col. Allen West was investigated and fined $5,000 by the Army for abusing a prisoner in Iraq when he unlawfully detained the man and fired a pistol at point blank range above the man’s head. West left the military the next year. Despite the incident, West was elected to Congress in 2010 with huge Tea Party support. He’s now become a national right-wing favorite, thanks to his brash rhetoric and flamboyant style, and has even been urged by leading conservatives to run for president.
ThinkProgress sat down with one of West’s Democratic challengers, entrepreneur Patrick Murphy, at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday. Murphy said he has spoken to several veterans who were offended by West’s actions in Iraq. They feared that the well-publicized incident and West’s ensuing rise to prominence would be used by terrorists to recruit, Murphy said, and thus put American troops’ lives at risk:
MURPHY: To [veterans], he was putting their life at risk. That is exactly what the sort of right-wing element of the Muslim community wants to show of Americans abusing detainees. I mean, that’s not the typical American — we would never abuse detainees. To me, we’re above that. [...] The extremists, the terrorists, this is what they’re looking for. They find a story like that and then they go recruit people based on that.
So, the veterans that I’ve talked to say he helped the terrorists recruit people because of what he did. So it’s a scary, scary thing.
Murphy sat in on a panel at Netroots about combating anti-Muslim bigotry — which featued ThinkProgress editor-in-chief Faiz Shakir — and said West’s notorious Islamaphobia was part of his motivation for challenging the congressman. Murphy has also condemned West’s “clear bigotry” against the LGBT community.