OTR Interviews

President Obama says we can't be 'politically correct' when battling terrorism, but refuses to say 'Islamic extremism'

Pres. Obama and the White House try to explain why they refuse to say 'radical Islam' - but does it add up? Is it false logic?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 18, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX HOST: This is a FOX News alert. President Obama digs his heels in. He will not say "Islamic extremism." Instead, the president says "violent extremism." The president adding, "We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."

A short time ago, the president speaking at the White House summit on countering violent extremism.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF HE UNITED STATES: There has been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge. So I want to be very clear about how I see it. Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Usama bin Laden was frustrated that al Qaeda was being recognized and acknowledged and fought, not as a religious organization, but as a terrorist group. He even contemplated, in those writings, changing the name of al Qaeda to try to more closely identify it with Islam. He felt like that would be helpful to their flagging recruiting efforts.

OBAMA: We can't paper over problems and we're not going to if we always just trying to be politically correct.


VAN SUSTEREN: So the president says this is not a time to be politically correct. But then, he won't say "Islamic extremism."

Congressman Duncan Hunter joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: Good evening. Thanks for having me, Greta. Good to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know about you, but this academic discussion is getting very terrifying to me. I mean, we are at war with people who are trying to kill us and we have a situation where we are all fighting over who our enemy is and the president will not say "Islamic extremism" because -- but then he says we shouldn't be politically correct. Go figure.

HUNTER: So here is what really gets me on this. I did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every single person that I thought was Islamic, they were radical Islamists, but they were still Islamists. And the things that he mentions, like lack of education, lack of human rights, poverty, these aren't the causes of the violence. Those are symptoms of the root cause of what these groups are, like ISIS and al Qaeda. They're Islamic at their core. They're a twisted, evil Islam, but it's still Islam.

Until the president can realize this is an ideological fight based on theology, basically, right? I mean, this is a theological motivation for ISIS, for al Qaeda, for Boko Haram, all these different groups. They are not Jewish. They are not Christian. They are not Buddhists. There are always extremists. You have Christian extremists and all kinds of extremists. But this is different. And when you take yourself out of logical world, which the president has done, and get in this academic world, like you say, it's off in La La Land. He ought to be the mayor of a city talking to law enforcement, like I watched on' FOX News today. He should be a mayor of the city, not the President of the United States.

He doesn't get the way the powers ebb and flow and what causes groups like ISIS to get people to follow them. It's not because they are poor or uneducated. The root cause is radical Islam, period.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have a sense that he thinks that our enemy thinks like he does, in the sense that you can sit down and talk this one out. That would be great, but we are not dealing with people who want to sit down and talk. We are talking about people who want to behead and set people on fire. I don't think he understands what the enemy is trying to do. This is not a conversation at this point. If it were a conversation, he would have solved it back in '09 when he had that conversation in Cairo. We are at a very different time.

HUNTER: I think it's hard for him, too. ISIS wouldn't exist if the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the same one we had then we now, Martin Dempsey, and the president wouldn't have withdrawn out of Iraq. If you think about it -- the second thing that really gets me is they literally caused this problem. Chairman Dempsey and the president literally allowed ISIS to sweep into Iraq, and now they are the ones coming in and briefing me, in my hearings -- Chairman Dempsey is saying here is how we are going to fix this. It's clear they just don't get it. And it's extremely sad, Greta, because I shouldn't be talking about the president of the United States as a U.S. congressman, saying let's get someone else to lead this charge who really understands the enemy and the threat that we face and knows how to kill these guys.

Because, like I said over and over, it's not militarily hard to kill ISIS. It's going to be. When they spread out and when they get spread out and they're able to get in places like the U.S. and places like Italy and move throughout Europe freely, it's going to be really hard. But we have had a chance to corner these guys, to box them in between Jordan and between Syria, Iraq and Turkey, squeeze them and Kill them, and we're losing that ability to do this, as we speak, because they are going to start moving and proliferating all through Africa and all through Europe, and then there is going to be no way to stop them. They will be all over.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you. Nice to see you, sir.

HUNTER: Thank you, Greta.