Referring to a DHS report on "rightwing extremists," Joe Scarborough stated that "what upset most of us ... was the fact not that they were targeting right-wingers, it's that they were targeting veterans." In fact, when the report was made public, Scarborough not only criticized it for what he said was its "targeting veterans," but also stated that "they're going after conservatives first."
During the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough mischaracterized his own previous criticism of a Department of Homeland Security report alerting law enforcement about the threat posed by "rightwing extremists." Responding to Paul Krugman's June 12 New York Times column, in which Krugman wrote that "[c]onservatives were outraged" over "an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security warning that current conditions resemble those in the early 1990s -- a time marked by an upsurge of right-wing extremism that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing," Scarborough claimed that "Krugman misses ... the fact that what upset most of us -- that we're talking about that report around this table -- was the fact not that they were targeting right-wingers, it's that they were targeting veterans." In fact, when the DHS report was made public, Scarborough not only criticized it for what he said was its "targeting veterans," but also stated on April 15 that "they're going after conservatives first." He added: "I suspect an invasion of Salt Lake City is not far behind." Scarborough further said: "It appears that they are targeting people that they think might be political opponents. I've never heard of anything like this before in my life," and asked, "What if Dick Cheney decided that he was going to target liberals?"
As Media Matters for America documented, numerous other conservative media figures similarly claimed the DHS report demonstrated that the Obama administration was targeting conservatives and others simply because they disagree with administration policies and proposals. In fact, the report addressed potential "emergent issues" that could be exploited by extremists groups to "gain recruits", including the recession, President Obama's election, immigration, social programs, and gun control. The report did not allege that someone is an extremist simply because he or she holds conservative views.
Moreover, Scarborough failed to note that the DHS report cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- as evidence that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."
From the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: Of course, the point that Krugman misses is the fact that what upset most of us -- that we're talking about that report around this table -- was the fact not that they were targeting right-wingers, it's that they were targeting veterans, saying, watch out, these people are going to come home and -- but it is -- I mean, it is sort of sad and pathetic that this is being exploited.
From the April 15 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: I just asked this question to my Democratic friends out there -- and I'm serious about this -- what would you have said if George Bush, Karl Rove, and the head of Homeland Security had issued a report warning about left-wing radicals wanting to blow up America? Are -- you know, it's -- it is frightening.
SCARBOROUGH: You didn't put in there the part about how Janet Napolitano is going to follow --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): I know. We have to do that, at the top of the hour --
SCARBOROUGH: -- the Obama administration's orders --
BRZEZINSKI: -- 'cause that's an amazing story.
SCARBOROUGH: -- to invade Utah. That's coming next.
BRZEZINSKI: That's not part of the story, but it's an amazing story.
SCARBOROUGH: They're going to -- they're going after conservatives first. They're targeting soldiers for surveillance, according to this document, when they come home from war. I suspect an invasion of Salt Lake City is not far behind.
BRZEZINSKI: OK, that might be pushing it a little far, but it is an amazing story.
SCARBOROUGH: The second -- is the second, friends, you see the salt flats rumbling, OK? It's time to run to Vegas. They'll leave Vegas alone.
BRZEZINSKI: I'm trying to understand what's going on here.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, let me help you out here. It appears that they are targeting people that they think might be political opponents. I've never heard of anything like this before in my life.
GEIST: If you put the soldiers aside, is it not fair, at least somewhat fair, to suspect that in a time of historic expansion of government, that conservative anti-government groups might be on heightened alert?
SCARBOROUGH: It might be a concern, but at the same time -- again, I just go back to what if Dick Cheney had told Tom Ridge, when he was the head of the Department of Homeland Security, to be on the alert for liberal groups? What would people at this network --
BARNICLE: Well, I figure it'd be --
SCARBOROUGH: -- and every other network say? What would the editorial page of The New York Times and Boston Globe say?
The rage would be -- the chorus would be unbelievable. They would be vitriolic. They would be angry. They would spew for night after night after night. And here, this -- I'm sure this will be met with silence because it's on the other side -- but when you have a president and you have the Department of Homeland Security more focused on targeting veterans than on protecting our border in the South where a war is breaking out, or protecting us from, I don't know, Al Qaeda.
Isn't this interesting, they no longer want to use the term "war on terror."
BRZEZINSKI: Right. They -- there has been that change in phraseology.
SCARBOROUGH: They don't want to use war on terror because that makes them feel uncomfortable --
BRZEZINSKI: Well --
SCARBOROUGH: -- but they've got no problem targeting veterans returning from war. This is perverse. And if you --
BRZEZINSKI: I'm holding my --
SCARBOROUGH: You can't defend it, can you?
BRZEZINSKI: No, I'm holding my fire on it 'cause I just -- there's a missing link here.
SCARBOROUGH: There's not a war on terror, but there may be a war on veterans.
BRZEZINSKI: It just --
BARNICLE: Well, it -- this report, the Reuters report -- they're not targeting veterans. The department is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities. I mean, this is --
BRZEZINSKI: I'm praying upon --
BARNICLE: This is a nutty story.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, it really is.
SCARBOROUGH: This is -- it's frightening.
BRZEZINSKI: I'm waiting for more. This is Reuters, and we have one source. I need more.
GEIST: You need clarification.
BRZEZINSKI: I hear what you're saying --
SCARBOROUGH: Big brother is --
BRZEZINSKI: -- and I hear that it makes you angry. No, I --
SCARBOROUGH: Well, it should make you angry. It should make --
BRZEZINSKI: I'm holding my fire.
SCARBOROUGH: It should make Americans angry.
BRZEZINSKI: But I hear what you're saying. I really do.
SCARBOROUGH: What if Dick Cheney --
BRZEZINSKI: This is not an argument.
SCARBOROUGH: -- decided that he was going to target liberals?
BRZEZINSKI: I hear -- completely hear what you're saying.
BARNICLE: You're absolutely right on that. You're absolutely right on that.
SCARBOROUGH: Can you imagine -
BARNICLE: It'd be front page.
SCARBOROUGH: -- what certain newspapers and cable news shows would do if George Bush and Dick Cheney decided to target Democratic loyalists and say that they may be a terror threat?
BARNICLE: It'd be front-page news.
SCARBOROUGH: I've got nothing else.