Fox News parroted the accusation that Thomas Perez, a possible Labor Secretary nominee, "worked with hardcore Islamist groups" and approved of efforts to weaken airline security measures, but that accusation is based on comments Perez made at an interfaith conference where he emphasized the need to respect civil rights when improving security protocols.
The Los Angeles Times reported on March 10 that President Obama is likely to nominate Perez for Secretary of Labor. He is currently the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and has been repeatedly vilified by Fox News.
On Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne claimed Perez has a "controversial past" and was "said to have worked with hardcore Islamist groups and applauded those who lobbied against airline security measures."
Browne did not cite evidence for her claim, but her criticism echoed a Daily Caller piece from July 2012 that claimed Perez attended a meeting in D.C. in October 2011 with "hardcore Islamists" and "complimented the Islamists for lobbying against airline security measures," almost the exact words used on Fox & Friends First.
Perez's full remarks from the October 2011 meeting reveal he praised the work done by faith leaders around the country to help combat discrimination based on national origin in airport security screenings.
Perez spoke at the October 2011 Civil Rights Summit hosted by George Washington University Law School on Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans experiencing discrimination and hate crimes following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The event was attended by faith leaders and advocates from many religions, including an imam and a rabbi.
While there, Perez thanked the audience for giving the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security feedback on airport safety protocols, producing more effective measures that used "a scalpel, not a meat ax" to identify threats and emphasizing the need to protect civil rights:
I talked about reflection and recalibration and let me give you two examples of the need for continuing reflection and recalibration. You may recall the Christmas Day attempted bombing on the airplane. And you will recall the aftermath of that bombing in which certain protocols were put in place that made categorical targeting, that is to say, individuals from certain countries, were categorically being asked a series of additional questions. What did we hear in the aftermath of that? We heard a lot of feedback from people in this room and leaders across the country that we could do a better job. That we should be using a scalpel, not a meat ax. And that we should reconsider what's happening.
And a few months later, as you know, and thanks to you, we did just that. And the Department of Homeland Security recalibrated what it was doing, and I think as a result, it was a more effective mechanism. Because once again, we must always remember, as Jim Cole told us this morning: Don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's either safe streets, secure borders, and secure communities or protection of civil rights and civil liberties. It will always be both.