On Fox, Spencer, Gabriel whip up fears about Syrian refugees by claiming a terrorism connection.
Sean Hannity has a long history of inviting right-wing extremists onto his Fox News programs, from Cliven Bundy to renowned anti-Semites – particularly anti-Muslim extremists ranging from Pam Geller and Robert Spencer (whose Stop Islamization of America has long been designated an anti-Muslim hate group) to Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America.
So naturally, the terrorist attacks in Paris – and the ensuing debate over whether the United States should continue accepting Muslim refugees from Syria – provided Hannity ample opportunities to invite Spencer and Gabriel onto his show to spout their extremist views. Along the way, Hannity himself began spouting extremist talk indistinguishable from that of his guests.
Just two days after the massacres, he invited Spencer and Gabriel on to discuss the attacks, and almost immediately the subject of refugees came up, with Gabriel claiming that their ranks were filled with young recruits for radical Islamist ideology:
HANNITY: But are we dealing with a clash of cultures – Western civilization and people who come from countries where perhaps they grew up under Sharia law? Is this now going to be a growing problem here in the U.S., if in fact we take in refugees from Syria, and Iraq, and elsewhere?
GABRIEL: It has been a problem, Sean, and the West has been dealing with a war with a clash of civilization. The problem is that the West is refusing to acknowledge the fact that we are at war, despite the fact that our enemies tell us that repeatedly – ‘We are at war with you. We are at war with you. We do not like your ways. We abhor your immorality. We abhor your materialism.’ This is how they view us, at least the people in France were honest enough to express their opinion.
Now the same thing is happening in America today. Poll after poll have showed that. And what we are concerned about right now is these so-called refugees that we are bringing. People are coming to our shores who do not share our values, even though they are not raised necessarily or born into countries that adhere to Sharia law. But with the uprise of Islamic radicalism throughout the world, they are all experiencing the rebirth of spiritual Islam, of the Islam of Mohammad, and that is what they are gravitating to and bringing to our shores.
Hannity (who proceeded to talk over and ignore his sole Muslim guest) then went on to repeat the right-wing claim that American intelligence officials have stated that the refugees will have some terrorists among them, and continued with Spencer:
HANNITY: Their plan is to bring in refugees from countries without any ability to ascertain whether or not they have our best interests at heart, or whether or not they buy into radicalism. Why should we take in any of them?
SPENCER: There’s just no way, there’s no way to tell. We shouldn’t take any of them. We should send them all to Saudi Arabia, where there’s plenty of room, and where they have complete commonality linguistically, culturally, and religiously. There’s absolutely no reason. You know why the Saudis are not taking them? Because they know, and they say openly, that there are terrorists among them.
The Islamic State, we should recall, last February, ISIS said they were going to send 500,000 refugees into Europe – that was before the crisis began. In September, one of their operatives said, ‘We’ve already sent 4,000 jihadis into Europe.’ And the Lebanese education minister just weeks ago estimated that there were 20,000 active jihadis among the refugees in his country. It is absolutely impossible to tell the jihadis from genuine refugees, and we shouldn’t take even one of them. But the denial, Sean, it’s universal.
… We’re setting ourselves up for a jihad attack on the scale of Paris on New York, or Washington, or L.A. or Chicago or all of them.
In reality, while American intelligence officials have identified some areas of concern when it comes to vetting refugees, none of them have claimed that terrorists are certain to infiltrate the refugees – rather, they have said that they cannot guarantee with absolute certainty that they will not. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this,” FBI Director James Comey told a congressional hearing.
The vetting process for refugees is in fact far more arduous and requires many more levels of security checks than any other means of entering the United States – especially in comparison to the methods generally employed by terrorists entering the United States in the past, that is, with tourist or other visitor visas and using fake papers and passports. Refugees must wait up to two years and endure at least five high-level background checks.
Moreover, the government of Saudi Arabia has explained that claims such as Spencer’s are “false and misleading” regarding the flow of refugees into their nation: In fact, some 100,000 Syrians have fled to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the civil was in their homeland, but are there as visitors, not refugees. The claim that the Saudis are refusing them because of fears of terrorism are utterly without basis.
Last Wednesday evening, Hannity invited Spencer back onto his program to discuss the refugees in particular. Once again, he proceeded from the misinformation claiming that U.S. intelligence experts were certain that ISIS would infiltrate the ranks of the refugees:
HANNITY: Robert Spencer, let me begin with you. You heard John Kerry, you see the president has dug his heels in and he's insisting that America take in refugees even though we're being warned by our intelligence officials. What is your reaction to this, and what is the president, what is John Kerry not getting?
SPENCER: Well, it's insane to the point of suicidal. Just today the Turks arrested eight Islamic State operatives who were posing as refugees on their way to get into Europe. And so, what the president and John Kerry are not getting, what they've never addressed is the possibility of jihadis among the refugees and yet that's the whole big elephant in the room that has everybody concerned about the refugee problem. He tried to make into a religious -- a problem of religious bigotry saying some people want to only take in the Christians and not the Muslims. Well, the reason for that is that Muslims might blow us up and the Christians are not going to.
Later in the program, after again talking over his Muslim guest, he returned to Spencer:
HANNITY: If this is what they’re saying, Robert Spencer, then you’re right, this is suicidal. Problem is, the president’s gambling with American lives. There’ll be blood on his hands if people in fact infiltrate and kill Americans. Like they did in Paris.
SPENCER: Absolutely. No doubt about, Sean. Look, the Islamic State told us this was coming. They threatened in February that they were going to flood Europe with 500,000 refugees. They weren’t just trying to trigger a social crisis, they were going to plant jihadis among the refugees. They’ve already boasted that they’ve sent 4,000 into Europe, more are coming. Now Barack Obama, without ever addressing that, is going to bring this population over to the United States. People are going to die as a result of this disastrous policy.
Fearmongering of this intensity, based on extremist claims that are gross distortions of reality, has an effect when it’s blasted out to nationwide audiences: One recent poll showed that a majority of Americans now want the Syrian refugee program halted.