Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, ripped into The New York Times Tuesday for telling him in a weekend editorial to tone down his rhetoric.
From King’s response, there is no indication he will do anything of the sort.
“I’m absolutely delighted that The New York Times would attack me,” he said in an interview with The Hill. “I have nothing but contempt for them. They should be indicted under the Espionage Act. … The New York Times is just basically being a mouthpiece for political correctness.”
King took aim at a Sunday editorial that criticized King's comments about the radicalization of Muslins. The editorial suggested such comments were beneath someone who will be chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
King’s proposal to hold one of his first hearings on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims and homegrown terrorism has brought a rash of criticism from those who argue it could turn into a McCarthy-esque witch hunt, fueling distrust among Muslim citizens of the government.
In its editorial, the Times said King’s “sweeping slur on Muslim citizens is unacceptable.” It also accused him of too much “blather” and “bluster” on a host of national security issues, saying King "has popped off far too often in recent years, claiming, among other things, that President George W. Bush ‘deserves a medal' for authorizing waterboarding."
But King and his allies are pushing back. Former Democratic New York Mayor Ed Koch disseminated a commentary piece Tuesday wholeheartedly backing King and his hearing, calling it a “sensible act on his part that should be supported by the American public.”
There is plenty of proof, King says, that the U.S. Muslim community has had a spotty record in cooperating with federal authorities on terrorism investigations. For instance, he said, when FBI agents asked parents of 15- or 16-year-old Muslims to cooperate with an investigation into whether Islamic extremists were trying to recruit their children, one imam instructed the parents not to. In another instance, King said a different imam warned the parents of a man who admitted to plotting to bomb New York subways about the investigation.
“This is a politically correct hysteria,” King said. “These are very legitimate hearings.”
King has a longstanding contempt for The New York Times, so his aggressive response comes as no surprise. When he said the newspaper should be tried for espionage, he was referring to an article it published a few years ago about the government’s secret tracking of terrorist financing that relied on cooperation with U.S. and international banks. He said the policy was perfectly legal and effective at the time, but the Times article undercut the program because international banks became less cooperative.
“If people weren’t taking me seriously, that would be one thing,” King said. “I don’t need to take political advice from anyone else. People follow what I say. I’m outspoken, but I can back up everything I say. I am what I am and people seem to like it and I’m at peace with myself.”
“I’m certainly not going to take any political advice or direction from The New York Times,” he said. “I have more contempt for The New York Times than anything or anyone I can think of.”
The New York Times stood by its editorial.
"We continue to believe that Rep. King's plan to hold hearings next month on what he calls the 'radicalization of the American Muslim community' is an unacceptable slur on the vast majority of hardworking and law abiding American Muslims," Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times. "Nothing he said today causes us to alter that opinion."
-- This story was updated at 5:22 p.m.
This story was corrected at 6:55 p.m. to indicate that the editorial in The New York Times criticized King's comments about Muslims.