Donald Trump misled Americans about terrorism yet again in his first speech to Congress

Source: AP
Source: AP
opinion
Mic invites contributors and staff to offer commentary and context about news and timely issues.

While pockets of the media were busy fawning over a more restrained Donald Trump's "presidential" first speech to Congress Tuesday night, others noted that his address was characteristically laden with falsehoods, deceit and "alternative facts."

One of the most glaring examples was how the president talked about terrorism.

"The vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country," Trump said, citing unspecified "data" from the Justice Department. "It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur."

Trump went on to warn his audience about the deadly potential costs of welcoming immigrants who have not been properly — or rather, "extremely" — vetted.

"We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside of America," Trump said. "We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists."

President Donald Trump addressed joint session of Congress, Feb. 28, 2017.
Source: 
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The irony is that the United States has been a sanctuary for extremists for centuries. Homegrown white American terrorism has been key to maintaining our nation's racial caste system ever since its foundation. Slavery, Redemption and Jim Crow were all fueled by campaigns of racial terror — both judicial and extrajudicial — committed by whites against blacks. Between 1877 and 1950 alone, more than 4,000 lynchings targeting black people took place. White right-wing terrorists have killed 50 Americans since 2001.

Yet Trump's data is skewed such that it ignores this history and its antecedents, including the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and Dylann Roof's attack in Charleston, South Carolina, in July 2015. Instead, the president relied on a technicality to frame foreign-bred terrorists — specifically, Muslims — as the real threat to Americans' safety. 

Here's the truth: the primary reason why the "vast majority" of people convicted of terrorism since 9/11 have been foreign-born is because there is no federal statute to prosecute homegrown terrorism. By definition, the crime of terrorism — under federal law — requires there to be a foreign connection, experts have confirmed to Mic

That's why Roof could massacre nine innocent churchgoers in an act of racial and political violence and still not be charged with a terrorist offense.

"There is no specific 'domestic terrorism' statute," former Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a press conference about Roof in 2015. "However, hate crimes, as I've stated before, are the original domestic terrorism."

Trump exits after speech to joint session of Congress, Feb. 28, 2017.
Source: 
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP

What's more, Trump's claim that foreign-born terrorists are our predominant threat contradicts a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Associated Press and the Washington Post. The report was drafted in response to Trump's executive order in January banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, none of which have ever birthed a person who committed a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

"Country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity," the report read.

But these are inconvenient realities for Trump. The president won the White House on a platform of thinly-veiled white nationalism, with endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan — one of America's oldest terrorist organizations — and members of the so-called alt-right. Trump's constant fear-mongering around "radical Islamic terrorism" is what sparked his idea for a Muslim ban in the first place. So delusional was his fervor that he blamed Muslim immigrants for the deadliest U.S. terrorist attack of 2016 — the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which claimed the lives of 49 mostly queer, mostly Latino people — even though the killer was an American born in New York and raised in Florida.

Trump's electoral base was primarily concerned about terrorism and immigration, so it follows that the president would validate their fears by pushing his narrative about scary, murderous foreigners. In the meantime, the rest of us are stuck knowing that the more pressing and consistent historical threat has been violent white supremacists. As long as the president and his acolytes continue to ignore this, there's no reason to believe it will change.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Zak Cheney Rice

Zak is a Senior Staff Writer at Mic.

MORE FROM

Tick saliva could be the key to fighting a dangerous heart condition

Ticks could hold the secret to treating this heart condition.

CNN retraction and undercover video feeds into pro-Trump media's "fake news" claims

The release of a secretly recorded video of a CNN producer on Tuesday has amplified criticism.

Lockdown lifted at Alabama military post after reports of "possible active shooter"

The Redstone Arsenal was briefly on lockdown Tuesday.

"No religion" is now Australia's most popular religious affiliation

The segment of Australia's population marking "no religion" is growing quickly.

Global ransomware hack hits infrastructure targets across Europe

Targets include Russia's biggest oil company, Ukraine's largest airport and its state power company.

France convenes youngest, most diverse Parliament in its history. Is this the future of Europe?

Thanks to Emmanuel Macron's newly formed party, the French government is more diverse than ever before.

Tick saliva could be the key to fighting a dangerous heart condition

Ticks could hold the secret to treating this heart condition.

CNN retraction and undercover video feeds into pro-Trump media's "fake news" claims

The release of a secretly recorded video of a CNN producer on Tuesday has amplified criticism.

Lockdown lifted at Alabama military post after reports of "possible active shooter"

The Redstone Arsenal was briefly on lockdown Tuesday.

"No religion" is now Australia's most popular religious affiliation

The segment of Australia's population marking "no religion" is growing quickly.

Global ransomware hack hits infrastructure targets across Europe

Targets include Russia's biggest oil company, Ukraine's largest airport and its state power company.

France convenes youngest, most diverse Parliament in its history. Is this the future of Europe?

Thanks to Emmanuel Macron's newly formed party, the French government is more diverse than ever before.