Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (D) on Thursday defended surveillance of U.S. Muslims conducted by authorities after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, calling it a necessary response.
In an interview with PBS Newshour's Judy Woodruff, the 2020 presidential candidate explained that the decision was made at a time when Americans were "petrified" of the possibility of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
"We were very careful, and the authorities that looked at us said, 'yes, you complied with the law,'" Bloomberg said. "But we had every intention of going every place we could, legally, to get as much information to protect this country."
"We had just lost 3,000 people at 9/11 — of course we're supposed to do that," the former mayor added.
Bloomberg was then asked whether it was right for law enforcement to single out Muslims for surveillance, to which he replied the nature of the 9/11 attacks demanded such a response.
“All of the people came from the same place and all that came were from a place they happened to be one religion. And if they’d been another religion, we would’ve done the same thing,” the former mayor responded.
“It does not, incidentally, mean that all Muslims are terrorists or all terrorists are Muslim. But, the people that flew those airplanes came from the Middle East and some of the imams were urging more of the same,” he continued.
The former New York City mayor has been widely criticized by his fellow 2020 Democratic contenders for his record as mayor, including his implementation of the controversial stop-and-frisk program that targeted minority residents for random searches by law enforcement, a policy for which Bloomberg has since apologized.
He remains a top contender in many primary states after eclipsing the entire Democratic field as well as President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE in campaign spending, and is currently on track to spend more than a half a billion dollars on his run just through Super Tuesday contests next week.