Dan Fanelli, a “former Navy and commercial airline pilot” who is competing in the GOP congressional primary for the chance to run against Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) in the general election, has begun airing a new ad in which he seems to endorse racial profiling of darker-skinned Americans to detect terrorists. Fanelli implies that all terrorists look alike.
In the ad, Fanelli stands in front of an elderly white man dressed in a business suit and asks, “Does this look like a terrorist?” He then holds out his hands to his other side and a burly, swarthy-skinned man emerges, prompting Fanelli to say, “Or this?” The candidate continues, “It’s time to stop this political correctness and the invasion of our privacy. Let’s face it, if the good looking rich guy without much hair was flying airplanes into the twin towers, I’d have no problem being pulled out of line at the airport.” Watch it:
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent asked Fanelli if “the message of the spot was that darker people are more likely to be terrorists.” Sargent writes that Fanelli “said it wasn’t, claiming that the ad’s point was that people from countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Syria ‘require a higher level of security.'”
While Fanelli’s suggestion of placing special security emphasis on people who look a certain way or come only from certain countries is offensive, it’s also wildly ineffective in actually combating terrorism. A study released last year by the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science conducted a mathematical analysis to compare random screenings to racial profiling. It found that racial profiling is “no more effective” than using the random method in detecting terrorists.
Indeed, terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and do not simply belong to one religion, ethnicity, or nationality. The “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, was Jamaican and British. Al Qaeda recruit Adam Pearlman was a white American. Germaine Lindsay, one of London’s 7/7 bombers, was Afro-Caribbean. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a black African.
During an interview on Fox News’ Red Eye last month, Fanelli said he thinks “[racial] profiling is good,” and claimed the ad is just an example of using “a little humor to make a point.”