The PJ Tatler

Congressman on 'Callous and Cruel' Muhammad Contest: 'I Would Get Upset If Someone Called Mary a Slut'

A Louisiana lawmaker today prodded terrorism officials at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Garland, Texas, ISIS attack about whether they were looking to tamp down incitement in the U.S.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said knowing that ISIS are “experts at manipulating social media and using social media, are there things that we can do or things that we should encourage others to do or not to do to protect themselves?”

“And I guess now, I’m going to get into the sensitive area of — you know, I’m not commenting whether it’s their First Amendment right to have a contest to depict or make fun of Islam, but in my mind, I encourage my mother not to walk down dark streets at night, because it’s dangerous,” Richmond added. “I would get upset if someone drew cartoons of Jesus or called Mary a slut. I mean, that’s just my faith.” The second-term congressman is Baptist.

“So if you know they’re social-media experts and they’re good at using social media to get their message out, are we inciting some of this with our — or some people’s hatred towards their religion and other things? I mean, are we fueling some of this fire?”

Francis Taylor, undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, replied that “the Constitution of the United States of America and our rights and freedoms are something that stands in the way of our enemies’ effort to create a global caliphate.”

“So I don’t think any one event fuels this. I think it’s coming at our system of government, our freedoms, is what they’re trying to undermine,” Taylor said. “They are in the news cycle.”

“So you don’t see any spike in people following after events look this or any rise in social media conversations when you have a contest like that going on?” Richmond asked, referring to the Muhammad cartoon contest.

“Of course you do,” Taylor responded. “But again, in America, those kinds of conversations happen every day as a — as a part of our constitutional rights in this country. And so, saying that we should stop doing something here would cause them to stop doing it there, they’ll find somewhere else to look for a reason to, you know, to attack America.”

Richmond said he agreed with that, “but I guess my question is, and I think that a guy that’s gonna rob a lady walking down a dark alley is gonna rob somebody, but I’m gonna encourage my mother not to walk down that alley so it won’t be her, so that it’s not easy prey.”

“And I — and I guess, you know, it’s our constitutional right to say whatever you want, but I promise you, if you call my mother a bad name, there are going to be some consequences and repercussions. And I just don’t think that we’re having that honest conversation when we’re talking about young people, we’re talking about angry people, we’re talking about people who feel picked on,” the congressman continued.

“If you — I mean if, you know, there are some words that will trigger a response, but you have the absolute First Amendment right to say it. And then it’s up to me whether I want to exercise my discipline or hit you in the mouth. So, the question becomes, how often are we gonna get hit in the mouth before we realize that we may be playing into it unnecessarily by just being callous and cruel, I think, in some instances.”