CNN seemed to fear the worst before Thursday's hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims, pressing committee chair Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on his stance toward radical Islam with the shadow of Joseph McCarthy looming in the background.
CNN correspondent Dana Bash asked King, the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, if he was "obsessed" with radical Islam, and what he thought about being compared to Joseph McCarthy. Her exclusive video interview with the congressman was aired multiple times Wednesday on the network.
In a voice-over, Bash reported that the hearing appears "to some, akin to Joseph McCarthy's 1950's communist witch hunt." She then asked a question of the congressman in real-time, this much of which was included in the segment: "Peter King is the modern day Joseph McCarthy?" Bash was probably alluding to the thoughts of King's critics, and was asking him for his reaction.
"I would say, first of all, there's no basis for it, and secondly, I tell people to wait and watch and listen to the hearing," the congressman replied. Bash followed up later by asking King if he was "obsessed" with radical Islam.
"You've been called a man obsessed, obsessed with the Muslim radicalization. Are you obsessed?" Bash pressed. King replied in the negative.
"American Morning" anchor T.J. Holmes posed this obnoxious question to King during the show's 7 a.m. EST hour: "Do you think, generally speaking, that Muslims in this country are not patriotic enough?" Holmes said so referring to a previous comment by King that a patriotic American Muslim wouldn't refuse to cooperate with him on the hearings.
A partial transcript of the video, which aired on March 9 at 9:33 a.m. EST, is as follows:
BASH (voice-over): Homeland Security Chairman Peter King preparing for his hearing on what he calls radicalization of Muslims in America. To some, akin to Joseph McCarthy's 1950s communist witch hunt.
(on camera): Peter King is the modern day Joseph McCarthy?
KING: I would say, first of all, there's no basis for it and, secondly, I tell people to wait and watch and listen to the hearing.
BASH (on camera): You've been called a man obsessed, obsessed with the Muslim radicalization. Are you obsessed?
KING: No, I am very focused. I had lost so many people on my district on September 11th and within a 30-mile radius of my home, probably, a thousand people -- over a thousand people murdered on September 11th.
BASH: But some call King's efforts against American Muslim terrorism now hypocritical. King is Irish-American. In the 1980s, he was an active supporter of Gerry Adams and an Irish group the State Department then deemed terrorists -- the Irish Republican army.
(on camera): The IRA was responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths and effectively what are terrorist attacks.
KING: During the 1980s I knew what Gerry Adams and Mark McGinnis were attempting to do within the IRA and I was saying that continually, that there is a real opening here if the United States would take advantage of it, to be an honest broker. Bill Clinton did that.
BASH: He insists the IRA was a legitimate force that had to be dealt with to achieve peace.
Back in his committee room, King says he knows his hearing on radicalization of U.S. Muslims is stirring anger against him, accusations of bigotry, but has no apologies.
KING: Hey, listen. I would love to be loved. I'm not a masochist, but on the other hand, I have a job to do and I would not want to wake up the day after an attack and say I should have done something differently.
BOLDUAN: And Dana Bash is joining me from Capitol Hill.
Hey there, Dana. Great piece, by the way. Amazing to learn more about the man behind these hearings. You say Congressman King, I mean, and he says it himself, believes that the Muslim community is not cooperating with law enforcement.
So, why didn't he invite anyone from the law enforcement community to testify?
BASH: It is such a good question, it's one that I asked Congressman King because he says that because of his connections with local law enforcement, particularly in New York, which he calls the epicenter of this, he hears all the time that there's a there a lack of cooperation. But he is not inviting the FBI director, the attorney general or anybody from local law enforcement.
His answer effectively was that he doesn't necessarily think that they are going to say what he hears privately. That they're not going to say that. That publicly they'll say they are getting cooperation, which we should note for the record does actually jibe with some academic studies which say the same thing.
But there will be one sheriff there from Los Angeles. And that sheriff, Kate, was invited by the Democrats on the committee. The witnesses that he invited are, what he calls average Muslims, but they are two family members of Muslims in America who were radicalized and also another doctor from Arizona who agrees with him.
BOLDUAN: Amazing how much this hearing, which, you know, as we know, hearings don't often create -- there are so many hearings on Capitol Hill, they don't often create this much conversation. But definitely one to watch.