Democrat hits Obama on extremism summit
© Greg Nash

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-Hawaii) bashed the White House’s summit this week on countering extremism as failing to address the threat of radical Islam.

“If you look at some of the conversations that have happened during this summit and the president’s speech that we heard just a few minutes ago, still I think it is a divergent from where we need to be focused,” she said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

“If you look at this broad focus on countering violent extremism, which is very hard to define, it’s a diversion away from the actual threat coming from this radical Islamic ideology that exists.”


The White House’s event doesn’t specifically call out Islamic extremism, although a fact sheet for the summit discusses terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. During a speech Wednesday afternoon, Obama spoke about how extremists have used Muslim ideology as an entry point to lure supporters, but insisted that those groups represent a perversion of the religion.  

“Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy and try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam,” Obama said. “They’re not religious leaders, they’re terrorists.”

“We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Gabbard, a combat veteran who served in Iraq, has repeatedly criticized the White House for not defining militants from ISIS as Islamic extremists. She said that the summit’s “broad focus” is further proof that the administration doesn’t understand America’s true enemy.

“The administration is misidentifying the enemy and their motivation by saying they are motivated by material aspirations, they are motivated out of poverty or lack of jobs or education or opportunity,” she said.

“As a result, the courses of action that the administration are proposing are also materialistic in nature.”

She pointed to Libya and Egypt as past examples where America helped remove a dictator and allowed a “greater threat” to emerge.

Gabbard added that the White House hasn’t contacted her about her disagreements with its policies. Former White House press secretary Jay Carney, who also appeared on the CNN segment, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by a lack of outreach by the White House.

“It’s clear from his speech and from his views that he believes the attempt to radicalize Muslims is key to the problem here and that’s creating the enemy, he talked very clearly about the perversion of Islam. He didn’t shy away from using that word,” he said about Obama.

“I think his view is that in order to succeed in that ideological fight and that military fight we need allies, and we need allies in the Muslim community and we don’t want to alienate Muslims that might want to help us.”