Wisconsin congressman and former Real World: Boston cast member Sean Duffy appeared on CNN Tuesday to defend the Trump administration’s fixation on the public safety threat presented by natives of seven specific majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa. (No immigrant from those countries has ever carried out a terror attack in the United States.) CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota asked Duffy why the White House wasn’t expressing similar concerns about the threat presented by white extremists in light of last week’s murder of six Muslims by a white supremacist Trump supporter in Québec City. That’s when Duffy started doing something that is colloquially known down by the docks as “talking out of his ass.”
Camerota: Why isn’t the president talking about the white terrorists who mowed down six Muslims praying at their mosque?
Duffy: I don’t know. But I would just tell you there’s a difference, again, death and murder on both sides is wrong, but if you want to take the dozens of scenarios where ISIS-inspired attacks have taken innocents, and you give me one example of what’s happened, I think that was in Canada, I’m going to condemn them all. But you don’t have a group like ISIS or al-Qaida that is inspiring around the world to take up arms and kill innocents. That was a one-off. That was a one-off, Alisyn, and you have a movement on the other side.
Camerota interjected that one of the worst terror attacks in U.S. history, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building, was carried out by a white extremist:
Camerota: Hold on a second, congressman.
Duffy: Bring it on, Alisyn.
Camerota: You don’t think there are white extremists? You don’t remember Oklahoma City? You don’t think this guy who was involved in the mosque shootings said that he was inspired by things that he read online?
Duffy: So you give me two examples, right? And in recent time, we’re going to talk about the one example. And there’s radicals all over the world and here in America that will take up arms and do bad things. But if you want to compare this one person in the last ten years that you can give an example of—Oklahoma was, what, 20 years ago, the Oklahoma City bombing—and that’s different than the whole movement that has taken place through ISIS, that’s inspired attacks. Are you going to compare the one attack up in Canada to all the death and destruction in Europe from refugees—
The weakness of Duffy’s position became even more evident as Camerota interjected by referring to another very prominent white extremist, South Carolina mass murderer and Confederate fetishist Dylann Roof:
Camerota: How about Charleston, congressman? He was a white extremist.
Duffy: Yeah, he was, OK.
Camerota: That doesn’t matter?
Duffy: No, it does matter. It does matter. Look at the good things that came from it. Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag, and that was great!
1. Yikes! Perhaps Duffy did not know that it’s generally an unwritten rule in politics that you don’t want to find yourself celebrating the upside of a mass shooting.
2. I happen to have compiled a list of fatal white extremist attacks that have taken place in the United States since the Oklahoma City bombing, so I can in fact give Duffy more than two examples of white-perpetrated terrorism in the past two-plus decades. In the post linked in the previous sentence you’ll find details on 32 such attacks involving 40 perpetrators and 70 murders. (The number in the headline above is 39 because one of the perpetrators was a Latino man working with two white anti-immigration extremists in Arizona.) Of particular note to Duffy might be the Aug. 5, 2012, incident in which a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which is about 200 miles from Duffy’s district office in the city of Wausau.
A 2014 survey, incidentally, found that law enforcement officers consider the “sovereign citizen” movement—which developed as an offshoot of the white-supremacist movement—to be the most pressing terrorist threat in the United States. (Islamic jihadists were second, followed by “militia/patriot” groups, “racist skinheads,” and neo-Nazis.)
The Trump administration, meanwhile, is reportedly considering revamping the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program so that it targets only Islamic jihadist terrorism rather than both jihadism and white supremacist violence.
Correction, Feb. 7: This post’s headline originally stated that the list linked to in the story names 40 white terrorists. While it in fact does name 40 perpetrators of terror attacks motivated by white-extremist beliefs, one of the perpetrators was a Latino man named Albert Gaxiola who participated in a double murder planned by white anti-immigration extremists in Arizona. It’s not clear whether Gaxiola considers himself white.