CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Pete King
Date: Dec. 27, 2011
Location: Unknown

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Now I want to make clear that the package this woman allegedly sent to you never actually made it to your office. Nonetheless, what went through your mind when you heard that the same woman who had targeted you was now dead?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Yes, Isha, actually it was startling. I pretty much had forgotten about the incident that happened six or seven months ago. You're right. I never saw it. It was intercepted by the postal authorities in Baltimore, I believe.

I know a police investigation was done afterwards and they felt she was not considered dangerous. When I heard it, actually I felt badly for her. She was clearly a deranged person. She was not acting out of any political ideology. She was, again, very deranged person. She was sick.

Apparently more sick than the authorities thought she was, but one comment I would make, though. I think people like this, they can respond to what I believe were overly inflammatory charges made against me, made against the hearings, accusing me of being a bigot, and anti-Muslim.

Those types of charges can stir up this type reaction, I believe, in people who are deranged. I think some people in the media, not talking about CNN. I was treated very fairly by them.

But I mean, the hysteria against me and against the hearing, against me and against the hearing, I can see why someone like this now looking back on it could have been set off the way she was.

SESAY: But Congressman King, I'm sure you know there are some people who believe -- some Muslims who believe that there is an Islamophobia that is growing in the states and that could have been in itself enough of a trigger. The concern of that could have been a trigger for a woman like this. I mean, we are just speculating now. But laid at the doorstep of the media, I mean, many would question that.

KING: Well, I would say, not just the media, but also many Muslim leaders who overreacted to this, holding rallies in Times Square with thousands of people accusing me of being a bigot.

On the issue of Islamophobia, you know, there are as many Jews and Muslims in the country get an equal number of both, there's nine to ten times more anti-Semitic incidents every year as there are anti- Islam.

Now one incident is too much, but to me if there's nine times more anti-Semitic than there are anti-Islam, to me that doesn't growing Islamophobia. In fact, there's as many anti-Christians incidents as there are anti-Muslim.

Now, granted there are more Christians, but still I just think this whole talk of Islamophobia, it creates a sense of panic among some people and it's wrong.

I think these are phony charges. They're inflammatory charges and they're politically correct charges, and I think they end up doing much more harm than good and they damage the national debate.

SESAY: I just want to be clear so that I'm not misunderstanding. Are you saying that Islamophobia or the growth of it in the United States is not real?

KING: That's totally exaggerated. Absolutely, there are eight to nine times more anti-Semitic incidents every year as there are anti- Islam. So, yes, the whole concept of Islamophobia is a phony political argument that's thrown out there by people on the left.

SESAY: The hearings, nonetheless, have led to people targeting you. We see that in this case. How does that make you feel?

KING: Well, it gives me -- some concern for me and for my family. I'm not going to go into details about different security provisions that have to be made, that have been made, but there have been a lot of attacks, personal attacks made, which doesn't bother me. I have thick skin. I don't care about that.

But as we saw of this woman in Georgia, I mean, this is the type of thing that can be set off. When I think of other things that have been said and possible threats that are there, it makes me take them more seriously than I would have before after seeing a woman who on the range of threats.

She was considered probably minimal. She ends up attempting to kill a police officer and being killed herself. It shows what a dangerous world we're getting into.

SESAY: Does it make you rethink the way you handle the issue of Islam and the questions and the statements you have made about radicalization of Muslims?

KING: No. I stand by everything I've said, and I stand by the hearings. I will put the four hearings that I've held on Islamic radicalization, I'll compare them to any congressional hearings that have been held in recent years or any time as far as being fair, as far as being open and being devoid of any type of bigotry or racism whatsoever.

These have been very objective hearings. We've had expert witnesses come in. We've had Muslim witnesses come in and testify both for and against the points that I've been making. They've been open. There's been diversity.

So no, I think that we have to realize that this is a very important issue, the issue of Islamic radicalization, the extent of it, the lack of it, but whatever it's a hearing that has to be held.

We just had one several weeks ago that Senator Lieberman and I co-chaired on radicalization in the American military. We saw there's both threats against the military from without by Islamic radicals and also from within the military.

So all of these to me are legitimate issues, but I preface every hearing and every interview I give by saying that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans.

But there's a small minority, a very small minority, which is being used by al Qaeda and is being also radicalized over the internet that is cause for concern.

To me, it should be people in the Muslim community who should be supporting what I'm doing because I am defending them against a very small element within their own community.

SESAY: Representative Peter King, we appreciate you taking time out to join us today. Thank you.

KING: Isha, thank you, thank you.

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