In the first GOP debate, consisting of the seven candidates whose poll numbers failed to put them in the top 10 prime-time debate, Fox News moderators asked question after question about how the contestants would confront ISIS and other Islamic extremists in the U.S. and abroad.
“ISIS-inspired terrorists have been arrested in this country, in the homeland, and the FBI assures us there are likely many more to come,” asked the moderators. “How far are you willing to go to root out this problem here at home?”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has a long history of making inaccurate pronouncements about Islam, replied he would solve the problem by declaring religion the enemy: “Unlike President Obama, I’ll actually name the enemy that we confront,” he said. “We’ve got a president who cannot bring himself to say the words radical Islamic terrorism. How can we beat them if our Commander in Chief doesn’t have the honesty and moral clarity to say that problem is radical Islam?”
There was no question, however, about the threat of right-wing, white supremacist mass violence, which has killed many more Americans since 9/11 than attacks by those inspired by Islam. American Muslims have carried out 20 plots in the last 13 years resulting in 50 deaths. In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.
A survey of 382 law enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum also found that police cited right-wing, anti-government extremism as a much more pressing threat than extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations.
Even the most recent tragedy, the mass shooting at a historic African American church in Charleston carried out by a young man who explicitly vowed to spark a race war, received no mention Thursday night.
Yet the moderators continued to focus exclusively on Islam, even suggesting putting mosques in the U.S. under surveillance, though they acknowledged that some would view that as a threat to religious liberty.
Former New York Governor George Pataki responded by vowing to root out anyone even sympathetic to Islamic terrorists, saying their speech was not protected by the First Amendment: “I would do everything in our power not just to go after those who are here, who we know who are here, before they can radicalize other Americans to carry out attacks,” he said. “We have to shut down their internet capability. We have to shut down whether or not they’re in prisons preaching or in mosques preaching. No radical Islam that is allowed to engage in encouraging violence against Americans, that is not protected speech.”