In a January 11 post, RedState's Erick Erickson attacks Erroll Southers, President Obama's nominee to be chief of Transportation Security Administration, asserting that video shows that "[a]ccording to Erroll Southers, pro-life Christians and our support of Jews is a bigger threat to national security than Al Qaeda." In fact, Erickson's claims about Southers -- whose confirmation vote was delayed due to a Republican hold -- are distortions or downright falsehoods.
Erickson's distortion: Southers more worried about Christian Identity groups than Islamic terrorists
Erickson: "Mr. Southers, in 2008, said he was more worried about 'Christian identity' terrorist groups inside the U.S. than islamic terrorists." Erickson writes: "[T]here is new and far more troubling information about Mr. Southers caught on video. According to Erroll Southers, pro-life Christians and our support of Jews is a bigger threat to national security than Al Qaeda." Erickson links in the post to undated videos of remarks by Southers.
In fact, Southers did not say Christian Identity terrorism concerned him more
Southers did not compare the danger of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorism to the danger of Christian Identity groups in any of the videos. In the videos to which Erickson linked, Southers talked about the dangers of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, stating in part: "What they're able to do now is have individuals who've radicalized, self-appointed as holy warriors, carry out acts around the world, and they can claim success whenever that happens. So you, by the very nature of believing in Al Qaeda's philosophy and going and blowing yourself up in a building and then being able to go on Al Jazeera and claim success although you've never met them in your life, means that they have an organization which, in my opinion, is very efficient, very effective, very, very good in a way of being able to carry out further attacks and, most importantly, interest other people in what they're doing." Later, Southers answered questions about groups operating within the United States. Southers was asked: "Which home-grown terrorist groups pose the greatest danger to the U.S.?" Southers responded:
Most of the domestic groups that we have to pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government, in most cases anti-abortion. They are usually survivalist type in nature, Identity oriented. If you recall, Buford Furrow came to Los Angeles in -- I believe it was 1999 when he went to three different Jewish institutions, museums, and then wound up shooting people at a children's community center, then shooting a Filipino postal worker later on. Matthew Hale, who's the Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator out of Illinois, and Ben Smith, who went on a shooting spree in three different cities where he killed a number of African-Americans and Jews and Asians that day. Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian Identity-oriented.
Erickson's falsehood: Southers targeting Southern Baptist Convention
Claim: Southers "would rather focus on Baptists." Erickson headlined his blog post "The Man Who Would Keep Us Safe From Terrorists Would Rather Focus on Baptists Than Islamic Terrorists." After noting that Southers pointed to Christian Identity as a terrorism concern, Erickson writes: "What are 'Christian identity' terrorist groups? White-supremacists naturally. The KKK. And the Southern Baptist Convention."
Reality: Erickson points to no comments by Southers in which he targets Baptists. Nowhere in the videos to which Erickson links does Southers mention the Southern Baptist Convention or Baptists generally. Rather, he repeatedly mentions the dangers of Al Qaeda in the videos, but when discussing homegrown terrorist groups, he mentions Christian Identity as a particularly dangerous ideology. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), "Christian Identity is a religious ideology popular in extreme right-wing circles. Adherents believe that whites of European descent can be traced back to the 'Lost Tribes of Israel.' Many consider Jews to be the Satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent, while non-whites are "mud peoples" created before Adam and Eve. Its virulent racist and anti-Semitic beliefs are usually accompanied by extreme anti-government sentiments." Similarly, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) states: "The Christian Identity religion asserts that whites, not Jews, are the true Israelites favored by God in the Bible. In most of its forms, Identity theology depicts Jews as biologically descended from Satan, while non-whites are seen as soulless 'mud people' created with the other Biblical 'beasts of the field.' " Neither ADL nor the SPLC connects Christian Identity groups with Baptists.
Christian Identity movement reportedly responsible for plots for bombing, killing plots. According to ADL, "In the 1990s, Identity criminal activity continued apace, including efforts by an Oklahoma Identity minister, Willie Ray Lampley, to commit a series of bombings in the summer of 1995 in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh." ADL also states:
In 1998, Eric Rudolph, who had been associated with Identity ministers such as Nord Davis and Dan Gayman, became a fugitive after allegedly bombing gay bars, the Atlanta Summer Olympics, and an abortion clinic. The following year, Buford Furrow, a former Aryan Nations security guard, went on a shooting spree at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, wounding four children and an adult, and later killing a Filipino-American postal worker.
Erickson falsehood: Southers "worried more about tea party activists than Islamic terrorists"
Claim: "Southers is worried more about tea party activists than Islamic terrorists." Erickson writes: Southers identifies pro-life groups and anti-government activists as particular problems. Yes, you read that right. Mr. Southers is worried more about tea party activists than Islamic terrorists."
Reality: Southers doesn't mention tea partiers; rather, he identifies anti-government groups that have gone on the attack. Southers does not say "tea partiers" or "anti-government activists" in general as a danger. Rather, in response to questions about groups inside the United States that pose a danger, Southers lists white supremacists, some black separatists groups and specific groups that have engaged in violence, including "World Church of the Creator, National Alliance, Aryan Nations." He adds: "What's interesting about those groups is you find that they are usually either Christian Identity groups and/or groups that really have a foothold in our correctional or prison systems in the way of radicalization and recruiting." In addition to Christian Identity groups, ADL has also linked World Church of the Creator, National Alliance, and Aryan Nations to bomb plots or killing sprees.
Erickson distortion: Southers thinks "America itself is to blame for the terrorist attacks"
Claim: Southers said "Had we not sided with Israel and France, which he says is an anti-Islamic nation, we would not be attacked." Erickson writes: "Mr. Southers also thinks that America itself is to blame for the terrorist attacks. Had we not sided with Israel and France, which he says is an anti-Islamic nation, we would not be attacked by Islamic extremists" [italics in original].
Reality: Southers did not blame the United States for terrorism and did not claim Israel and France are anti-Islamic. Southers was asked: "How high should the war on terror be on our list of national priorities?" He began his response by saying: "It should be high on our list of priorities because of -- speaking globally -- the threat that exists. Due to connectivity that we have with countries such as Israel, France, countries that are seen by groups -- by Al Qaeda as being infidels or anti-Islamic, by the true nature of our alliance with them means that we are subject to being attacked as well." At no point in the videos to which Erickson links did Southers blame the United States for the attacks against the country, and he said that Al Qaeda saw Israel and France as anti-Islamic; he did not say that those countries actually are anti-Islamic.
Claim: Southers simply said, "Some people might argue that U.S. foreign policy exacerbates terrorism." In his post, Erickson quotes Southers saying "Some people might argue that U.S. foreign policy exacerbates terrorism" with no further context.
Reality: Southers argued U.S. needs to "explain what we do." In the video to which Erickson links for this point, after saying "Some people might argue that U.S. foreign policy exacerbates terrorism," Southers explains: "Our enemy, if you will, uses our foreign policy to suggest that, in the case of Islam, that this is a war against their religion." He later states that the United States needs to "explain what we do" in order to have an effective foreign policy. From the video to which Erickson links:
SOUTHERS: Some people might argue that U.S. foreign policy exacerbates terrorism. Our enemy, if you will, uses our foreign policy to suggest that, in the case of Islam, that this is a war against their religion, and given media networks overseas such as Al Jazeera and others, they use what we do to suggest that this is a holy war. So our foreign policy really needs to engage communities across the globe in explaining what we do, why we're doing it, and partner with them. I don't think our foreign policy is going to be effective unless we partner with other countries who have the same terrorist concerns that we do in addressing those concerns. I think it's very important.