Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, a candidate running for California's open Senate seat, said comments she made about Muslims during an interview with Larry King that aired Wednesday should not be taken as a general indictment of followers of Islam.
Sanchez said her comments, which drew an outcry by some groups, were about a small minority of Muslims and that she has had a solid relationship with followers of Islam and she respects them.
“I want to reiterate that my reference [in the King interview] does not reflect my views of the Muslim community in my district, in America or the vast majority of Muslims around the world," Sanchez said in a statement sent to Fox News Latino late Friday night. "I believe that Muslim Americans are fully committed to the security and prosperity of our country."
In the interview with King, Sanchez said that "between 5 and 20 percent" of Muslims "have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in any way possible," including through the use of terrorism.
In her statement attempting to clarify her views, Sanchez said: “As a member of Congress, I have maintained a strong friendship and partnership with the Muslim community for almost two decades. I believe that the vast majority of Muslims around the world and Muslim Americans are deeply committed to Islamic ideals of peace and community service."
She said she met with Muslims in her home state after making the controversial comments in order to address their concerns.
"I stand with them as my fellow Americans," she continued. "They are law-abiding citizens, who love our country, live in peace with their neighbors, and serve our communities as teachers, doctors, businessmen, first-responders, and in many other ways."
Her comments to King came under fire, with critics calling for everything from an apology to demanding that Sanchez drop out of the Senate race.
A caliphate is an Islamic state, a unified Muslim community operating under Sharia law, led by a caliph – a political and religious leader seen as the successor to the Islamic prophet Mohammad. The terror group ISIS has declared itself a caliphate.
“They are not content enough to have their way of looking at the world, they want to put their way on everybody in the world,” said Sanchez, who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer, in the interview with King. “And again, I don’t know how big [a percentage] that is, depending on who you talk to, but they are ... willing to go to extremes. They are willing to use, and they do use, terrorism, and it is in the name of a very wrong way of looking at Islam."
The liberal activist group Courage Campaign has called on Sanchez to drop out of the Senate race, according to the Los Angeles Times and an immigrant rights group is calling for an apology.
“At a time when bigoted, Islamophobic rhetoric is spurring troubling incidents of hate across the country — including in Orange County — Representative Loretta Sanchez' wildly off-the-mark claims are irresponsible and dangerous,” Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center in Oakland, said in statement to the LA Times. “We expect California's representatives to uphold our values of inclusion and diversity, not trample them. We call upon Rep. Sanchez to immediately apologize.”
A spokesperson for Sanchez, who is a senior member of the Congressional Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, reemphasized in a statement to Politico that there are varying estimates as to how many Muslims support a caliphate.
Sanchez made the comments in response to King asking why President Barack Obama refuses to refer to terrorist acts by ISIS and others as "radical Islamic terrorism."
Sanchez answered, "I don’t fault the president on his verbiage, I want him to understand and go after this ISIL, ISIS DAESH state that people are trying to form, because it’s going after us."
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