POLITICS

Mike Pence Encouraged Tolerance Toward Muslims After 9/11. Now He's On Team Trump.

“If we attack the innocent simply because of their ethnic status, we are no better than the terrorists who attacked us.”
Republican vice presidential candidate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Republican vice presidential candidate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

What a difference a few years and a decision to team up with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump make.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, implored the public in 2003 to “practice justice and kindness toward every American citizen and visitor of Middle Eastern descent,” according to a speech unearthed Monday on Right Wing Watch, which is run by the progressive advocacy group People For the American Way.

Pence, at the time a member House of Representatives, took to the floor and read from some statements he’d made just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I said then, ‘The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not representative of the overwhelming majority of Arabs or Muslims in the United States,’ and that we could not allow anger at this horrible act to lead us to hate or discriminate against innocent individuals who happen to be of Middle Eastern descent,” Pence said.

“I said terror has no regard for religion or ethnicity,” he continued. “If we attack the innocent simply because of their ethnic status, we are no better than the terrorists who attacked us.”

Pence is now on the same ticket as Trump, who has called for racial profiling and surveilling mosques. Trump has accused Muslims in New Jersey of celebrating the 9/11 attacks, even though there’s no evidence that ever happened.

Most recently, Trump criticized Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier who died in Iraq, including a suggestion that Ghazala hadn’t been allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention. 

Trump called last year for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and now says he would temporarily block anyone from countries “compromised by terrorism” ― something the businessman said was an “expansion” of the previous proposal.

Pence called the idea of a Muslim ban “offensive and unconstitutional” in December. Once he joined the ticket, he said he was “very supportive” of temporarily blocking people “from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.”

Before being selected as Trump’s vice presidential pick, Pence tried to ban Syrian refugees from his state by arguing they weren’t vetted, but a judge ruled against the effort, saying it “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.” More than three-quarters of Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. this fiscal year have been women and children.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Pence stands behind his 2003 comments and whether the presidential nominee agrees with him.

Politicians often argue that extreme measures are needed because it’s a different and increasingly dangerous time ― which is why it’s worth noting that Pence’s 2003 speech refers to a statement made immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. He said he was motivated to speak again in 2003 after an Idaho man was arrested on terrorism charges.

“I thought with this news, with the potential for war abroad and terrorist attacks at home, it would be appropriate to rise again,” he said then, “to remind the people of my district and the state and even of this country that we cannot allow the hatred that terrorists and their sympathizers possess to inflame our hearts or distort our communities.”

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.

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