The Slatest

South Dakota Congressional Candidate Says a Terror Attack Would Secure His Election

Mount Rushmore
John Bakator/Unsplash

A state senator in South Dakota running for the state’s only U.S. House seat said last year that his victory in the primary election would be secured by “one more terrorist attack.”

In an audio recording obtained in April by the Sioux Falls radio station KELO and confirmed Monday by HuffPost, Neal Tapio, the state director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, made it clear that his image as the Trump-associated candidate meant he would get a boost from a terror attack.

In an audio clip, Tapio appears to be discussing his path to victory against the two other Republican candidates. He concludes: “And then all that has to happen is that there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then, and I will be the—just by the Trump effect—I will be the candidate. That’s the way I look at it.”

When KELO contacted Tapio about this statement, Tapio did not deny that it was him in the recording but rejected the station’s interpretation of his words. “To suggest I am advocating for a terror attack is a disgusting smear and you should be ashamed of yourself,” he said. “Anyone that would even suggest that is a vile and disgusting individual not worthy of being taken seriously. I would caution you that questions like that prove that you do not take journalism or this issue seriously.”

On his Facebook page, Tapio addressed the leaked recording by arguing he had the courage to speak about the “dangers of Islamic terrorism,” unlike other politicians who are afraid of being labeled as Islamophobic. “Terror has something to do with Islam,” he wrote. “Nobody dares say this in public. I do.”

Tapio also said in the recording that he would not allow his children to serve in the military because “you just are giving up your life to be mercenaries for Saudi Arabia.”

In response to a question from HuffPost about those comments, Tapio said he meant to sympathize with service members, who, he said, had faced a “heavy long-term physical and mental toll” from an “endless war.” He went on to reiterate that the unwillingness to “call this war by it’s [sic] proper name, ‘the global war against Islamic terrorism,’ ” insulted anyone serving in the military. He said that Islam is not a “religion of peace” but a “hateful and deadly ideology,” and he criticized the “false pretense[s]” and policies of presidents Bush and Obama that, he said, left the most radical groups in power and amounted to “a dishonest expenditure of the most valuable resource we have.”

Whoever wins the June 5 Republican primary is expected to win the general election to become the state’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives.