Tancredo Defends Controversial Comments

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A U.S. congressman says no apology is needed for his comments on nuclear retaliation. Congressman Tom Tancredo (search) says the U.S. could respond to an attack by Islamic terrorists by bombing Muslim holy sites.

The State Department (search) responded by saying — quote — "Remarks or comments are that insulting to Islam are insulting and offensive to all of us."

The Colorado Republican joins us now to talk about what he said and the reaction to his comments. Congressman Tancredo, welcome. So, you got a little firestorm around your head. Are you standing by your comments: Bomb Mecca (search), bomb Medina?

REP. TOM TANCREDO, R-COLO.: Well, I'm standing by my comments, but those weren't really my comments.

GIBSON: OK. What did you say?

TANCREDO: I was asked to respond to a hypothetical situation.

I was on the radio, and the guy was asking me, he said, you know we have got all these reports out here now of nuclear devices in the United States that have been smuggled into this country, and these reports are coming more and more regularly. And what should we do? If they set these things off, what should we do? That was the question he posed.

I said, well, you know, first, of course, you have to think about what you do in as a deterrence to that. And what you may want to do, as a threat is say that if this happens and if in fact we can prove that it was perpetrated by some fundamentalist Islamic — Islamofascists is really I think what we should call them — then you might think about this as a threat, the retaliation on their holy sites. Now, that's what I said. I never said, let's bomb Mecca and Medina. You know, I mean, that's a heck of a lot different than saying, what if we posed this as a threat?


TANCREDO: What would be the reaction to it? And you know, John, what is amazing to me is that, just as the State Department jumped into this thing right away to say, oh, oh, my goodness, you know, it's not an insult. I'm not casting it out there, an insult to Islam. But we are talking about a situation where our very lives are at stake — and not just the life of the United States, but of Western civilization. If, in fact, seven or eight nuclear devices were to go off this country, what do you think would happen to the world? I mean, there would be an economic implosion of major consequences. And to not even talk about the possibility of responding is crazy, I think.

GIBSON: All right. But, Congressman, look, I let you finish all that, because I know what it is to have a tidal wave of protests come at you for what you said.

TANCREDO: I appreciate it. I appreciate it.

GIBSON: However, do you think it is a wise or credible thing for a U.S. congressman to say, look, I will recommend we retaliate? And when you say, you know, attack Muslim holy sites, we know what you are talking about. We know you mean Mecca. We know you mean Medina. And we know you mean bombing them. Do you think that would be a deterrent to Islam?

TANCREDO: Oh, yes, that was actually clarified. I don't know the answer to that. I don't know if it would or not. But I know that we will never come up with an answer if we are afraid to even think about it, afraid to even say it, because, after all, who might get offended?

I'm offended when I hear the things that are said in mosques in the United States about the United States. I'm offended by what comes out of the schools that we call madrasas that are — in many cases — simply breeding grounds for future terrorists. I'm insulted by those things, too.

I'm trying to figure out what we can do to prevent this sort of catastrophic event. I want to prevent it. And I think the best way to do it is to enlist Islamic moderate — rational Islam — on our side, because they are in every bit as much danger as we are. They're threatened every bit as much as is the West.

GIBSON: Congressman, you're not backing off?

TANCREDO: Yes, sir.

GIBSON: You're standing by what you said?

TANCREDO: No, sir.

GIBSON: You are standing by?

TANCREDO: Well, yes, sir, I am.

GIBSON: You are? OK.


GIBSON: Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado — Congressman, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

TANCREDO: Thanks, John.

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