During the 9:00 hour of CNN Newsroom Monday morning, anchor Carol Costello grilled Republican Representative Darrell Issa on Trump’s executive order to put a temporary travel ban on immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Like the rest of the media, Costello wailed about the discriminatory impact of the ban on Muslims but she didn’t stop there. Costello even suggested the ban was meant to prioritize Christians above everyone else, asking Issa if Trump’s “underlying goal” was “to make this country aggressively Christian.”
From the start of the interview, Issa pushed back against the media’s narrative that this ban was meant to punish peaceful Muslims and refugees:
DARRELL ISSA: Just to put it in perspective, for more than a decade three separate presidents banned Americans from going to Lebanon, temporary bans for reasons of security, lack of vetting capability go both ways. As you might know Jimmy Carter banned people coming from Iran, one of the seven countries we're dealing with. Although I don't want to say that this was perfectly executed by any means and there has been some confusion, I think we have to put it in perspective, it's temporary. It does not target people, per se, based on religion and, quite frankly, most of the critics are saying other countries should be added if you want to catch all terrorists. That's sort of a counter message I keep hearing.
Costello started to interrupt as soon as Issa brought up the religious aspect and replied:
CAROL COSTELLO: But see here's the thing. It's a combination of things that make people believe this will become a permanent ban on Muslims coming into this country and I'll tell you why. On Friday, Trump's White House deliberately excluded mentions of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day and then on Friday of course, Trump of course, signed that executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim countries. He also gave an interview to the Christian Broadcasting Network that the goal here ultimately was to help Christians.
She ended her response by asking Issa if Trump’s “goal” was to make America “aggressively Christian.”
COSTELLO: How can you say that his executive order, his temporary travel ban isn't specifically targeting Muslims and perhaps his underlying goal is to make this country aggressively Christian?
Issa started to tell Costello that Christians weren’t the only minorities in these countries before Costello hammered again her belief that “minorities” were synonymous with “Christians.” She wouldn’t let this idea go, asking again before changing topics if it “all boiled down” to religion.
ISSA: I think we have to divide those two for a moment if you don't mind, Carol. The order says that there's an exception for minorities, and I think it's important that you realize --
COSTELLO: But you know what the minorities mean -- it means Christians --
ISSA: Carol, no.
ISSA: Unfortunately there are Muslim minorities. I take the letter of it --
COSTELLO: In those seven countries?
ISSA: I'm sorry. But my grandfather emigrated from what was then Syrian in 1914 under the Ottoman Empire. He was an orthodox Christian as am I. You can be an Arab Christian. As a matter of fact, if anything, there is a bit of a backlash that people aren't realizing that under the Obama Administration it did seem like Christians were unfairly unable -- even though they were the targets of having their heads chopped off, they were finding it harder to get into the United States than were Muslims. So I think we have to be religious blind other than majorities are not refugees. Minorities are refugees. That's an important one. When you look at Syria, there are over 10 million displaced people in Syria. Regardless of their religion, they're going to be displaced. That's not the same as people being persecuted, people who fear for their lives because of their faith. I don't want to get into a religious discussion because I do think in the case of Syria, it's not about religion--
COSTELLO: But doesn’t it all boil down to that Congressman--
ISSA:-- it's about whether we can verify these people.
COSTELLO: Doesn't it all boil down to that?