Democratic senator debunks GOP refugee fear-mongering: U.S. terrorists "are generally white males, who have shot up people in movie theaters and schools"

Dems begin to speak out as the mayor of Dallas also argues he's more scared of white gunmen than Syrian refugees

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 24, 2015 7:53PM (EST)

Sherrod Brown           (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sherrod Brown (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The week after a group of radicalized Europeans stormed the city of Paris in coordinated terror attacks, U.S. politicians rushed to scapegoat Syrian refugees, culminating in the passage of severely limiting restrictions on any future resettlement for those fleeing the war zone for the U.S. in the Republican-led House. But as the right-wing rhetoric of fear becomes deafening, despite President Obama's pleas for calm, Democrats have begun to coalesce around a message pushing back on the rampant, xenophobic and misinformed generalization of Syrian refugees as terrorists.

While Republicans in the House ramped up their anti-refugee rhetoric in the ramp up to the holiday season, one Democratic senator loudly rejected the misnomer that terrorist is synonymous with Middle Eastern. And as 34 Republican governors rushed to declare their state's Syrian-free zones last week, one Democratic mayor made it clear that he was more fearful of his own constituents than a latent threat from a refugee camp.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown explained during a radio interview last week that since September 11, 2001, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have done a much better job of keeping Americans safe from the brutality of foreign terrorists than from the senselessness of gun violence, specifically mass shootings, perpetuated by white males.

"I think most of us recognize that we’re concerned but we also know that we trust the FBI and our security forces to do this right,” Brown told WAKR radio last week. “Since the beginning of the Bush administration when we were attacked, Sept. 11, we’ve not had any major terrorist attack in this country. We’ve had individual crazy people; normally, they look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners. They are generally white males, who have shot up people in movie theaters and schools. Those are terrorist attacks; they’re just different kinds of terrorists”:

But we have since the early Bush days, when September 11th happened, through the rest of the Bush years, and through the almost six years of the Obama administration, we’ve kept this country safe.


Individual people shouldn’t be fearful, because by and large our government, the federal government — people always talk obviously they don’t trust the feds, whatever. The federal government and local communities have done a pretty good job at keeping us safe. Not keeping us safe from crazy gunmen coming into schools and movie theaters sometimes but certainly keeping us safe from foreigns attacking this country.

“I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue,” Democratic Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told MSNBC on Saturday, explaining his decision to join with 18 other U.S. mayors in defiance of GOP governors to welcome Syrian refugees in his town.

"We want to get rid of ISIS. We all agree with that," Rawlings said. "ISIS wants us to be divided on this issue. ISIS wants us to demonize these refugees, wants us to alienate these children."

As Salon's Amanda Marcotte illustrates today, the right-wing rhetoric of rabid hatred has only served to inflame the terroristic tendencies of some disaffected white males, as in Minneapolis last night where five Black Lives Matter protestors were shot by as many as three white gunmen. This comes days after a Black Lives Matter protestor was assaulted at a Donald Trump rally in Alabama.

And Democrats working to craft a forceful message of push-back against the incessant demagoguery in the face of 60 percent opposition to Syrian refugees will have to do so in spite of anemic media attention to facts. A Democratic political strategist who attempted to bring attention to the growing "domestic terror" of mass gun violence since 2001 was dismissed out-of-hand by Fox News host Bill Hemmer on Tuesday.

Listen and watch Sen. Brown's and Mayor Rawlings' attempts:

(h/t: Huffington Post)

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia Tesfaye