Despite an international outcry, Rep. Tom Tancredo continued to stand by his comments on Tuesday, saying he did not intend to offend moderate Muslims during last week’s interview with Florida radio talk show host Pat Campbell.
During the WFLA broadcast, Campbell referred to a report that Islamic terrorists hoped to strike several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons and he asked Tancredo, R-Colo., how the United States could respond.
“Well, what if you said something like _ if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered.
“You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell said.
“Yeah,” Tancredo responded.
He went on to say that he was “just throwing out some ideas” but that an “ultimate threat” might have to be met with an “ultimate response.”
In Moscow, Russian parliament member Konstantin Kosachev denounced the remarks during a news conference.
“It’s quite obvious that statements like the one just made by the U.S. lawmaker play into the terrorists’ hands as they stir international strife and may lead to the emergence of new . . . suicide bombers,” Kosachev said, according to the Russian news and information agency, Novosti.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli called Tancredo’s remarks “insulting to Islam,” and said they do not represent the U.S. government position to “respect the dignity and sanctity of other religions.” The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and The Interfaith Alliance added their own denunciations.
Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement calling Tancredo “utterly careless.”
“Remarks threatening the destruction of holy sites akin to the Vatican or Jerusalem do nothing to win the hearts and minds of Muslims in the United States and abroad,” Dean said.
Several groups have demanded that Tancredo apologize, but he rejected that call again Tuesday.
“One of the things I rail about quite often . . . is this sort of slavish adherence to political correctness that prevents us from talking about the world in which we live in real terms,” Tancredo said.
On a day when he had hoped to be spreading the word about his new immigration reform legislation, he hunkered in his Capitol Hill office writing a lengthy talking-points memo explaining his Mecca comments.
“Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I believe something good can happen” as a result of the dialogue, Tancredo said. “As we begin to discuss this issue forthrightly and realize the horrendous consequences of continuing on the confrontational path we are on, perhaps we can use this to begin steps in a different direction.”
He hopes his remarks spur moderate Muslims to identify and stop radicals before they get involved in terrorism.