Rep. Trent Franks engages in Islamophobic fear mongering again


Trent_FranksThere are many qualified candidates on the list for the “Worst Member of Congress,” but Arizona’s contribution to this list is Rep. Trent Franks, a Christian Right anti-abortion zealot ( he founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, the predecessor to Center for Arizona Policy) and an avowed Islamophobic bigot.

Remember the Muslim congressional intern “scandal” Reps. Trent Franks an John Shadegg engage in McCarthyism, religious bigotry againt Muslim-Americans, and Arizona Representative Trent Franks Accuses Obama Administration of Being Infiltrated by Muslim Brotherhood?

Arizona’s most embarrassing member of Congress is back again with more Islamophobic fear mongering. Steve Benen reports, No, ISIS is not at our border:

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) seems to be pretty excited lately. Two weeks ago, he told Fox News that Islamic State may partner with Iran to receive nuclear weapons and cross the U.S./Mexico border — which is why President Obama shouldn’t play golf.

In reality, Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons; Iran and ISIS are enemies; and how the president chooses to unwind during occasional downtime does not undermine national security.

But as Andrew Kaczynski noted, the right-wing Arizonan isn’t done just yet.

Rep. Trent Franks, appearing on E.W. Jackson’s radio program over the weekend, appeared to cite a report from a conservative website that has been dismissed by federal law enforcement officials about ISIS operating in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso.

“It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks,” Franks said. “So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real.”

Have I mentioned that Franks is currently a member of the House Armed Services Committee? He is.

Let’s unpack this a bit, because it really is remarkable for a sitting member of Congress to be this irresponsible in public, especially during a debate over national security.

First, why in the world is an elected federal lawmaker appearing on E.W. Jackson’s radio show?

Second, Franks was apparently passing along rumors from a far-right legal group called Judicial Watch, which believes it knows about ISIS operating in Mexico. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said officials are “aware of absolutely nothing credible to substantiate this claim,” but that didn’t stop an Armed Services Committee member from presenting the rumors as a “real” threat on a radio show.*

Third, unaccompanied minors haven’t snuck into the country. They’ve crossed the border and immediately looked for someone in a uniform to take them into custody.

And finally, the Republican insistence that ISIS is poised to infiltrate the United States through Mexico continues to be very hard to take seriously.

Other than this, though, Trent Franks is on solid ground.

* Judicial Watch has for years been the purveyor of the right-wing conspiracy theory that Hezbollah and Hamas are infiltrating the U.S. through the Mexico border — Muslim prayer rugs! JW has just updated to the terrorist organization du jour, IS, ISIS, ISIL — take your pick.

UPDATE: This must be the wingnut talking point for the week. Think Progress reports, Texas Sheriff Claims ‘Quran Books’ Found At Mexican Border May Mean ISIS Infiltration:

Federal officials say there is no credible information that known terrorists are crossing the southern border of the United States. But that hasn’t stopped one local Texas official from linking “Quran books” reportedly found on the border to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group. Gary Painter, sheriff of Midland County, Texas, described as a “born leader of men,” said to Fox News recently if ISIS members are poised to infiltrate the border, that “we’ll send them to hell.”

“I received an intelligence report that said that there were ISIS cells that were active in Juarez [Mexico] and that there was some activity for the sheriffs along the border to be on alert,” Painter said when the Fox and Friends’ host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked if ISIS was ready to attack on U.S. soil. “I’m saying the border is wide open. We have found copies, or people along the border, have found Muslim clothing, they have found Quran books that are laying on the side of the trail. So we know that there are Muslims that have come across, have been smuggled in the United States.”

“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell,” Painter continued. “I think the United States needs to get busy and they need to bomb them. They need to take them out. I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs.”

Painter made similar comments in other media outlets where he said that ISIS has operations in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which borders El Paso, Texas. That claim was first published on the conservative Judicial Watch, but a federal law enforcement told an ABC affiliate that it is “unverified and unlikely” that ISIS is in Juarez.

Last week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials dismissed claims at a Senate hearing that ISIS members could sneak into the country by land. DHS undersecretary for intelligence Francis Taylor told Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that he was “satisfied we have the intelligence and capability on the border that would prevent that activity.” At the same time, Jennifer Lasley, a DHS official told the House Homeland Security border security subcommittee, “We don’t have any credible information, that we are aware of, of known or suspected terrorists coming across the border.”


  1. I don’t know if there are hotbeds of Islamic terrorism hiding just across the Mexican border, nor do I know if Islamic terrorists are sneaking over the border into the United States. What I DO know is that it is a mistake to place absolute confidence in public pronouncements of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is not in their interest, nor is it in the interest of the Administration, to give any hints of problems along our border with Mexico.

    That is not a criticism of them. They are a Government Agency charged with security of our nation. We don’t want to hear that DHS is having problems; we want to hear that they are on top of things and everything is A-Okay. If they acknowledged there were some problems, it would mean mean several things to the American people:

    (1) DHS (and the Administration, by default) are not doing their job to protect us;
    (2) It could lay the ground work for panic and vigilantism with anyone who looks Islamic being put in danger of retribution;
    (3) It would give credence to the doom mongers and militia leaders who depend on such rhetoric for followers; and,
    (4) It would have a drastic effect on ANY immigration reform, debates or even discussions for the next twenty years.

    So listen to the DHS, but don’t ignore other sources for your information. The DHS has a built in bias against telling the truth in public.

    • Steve, your comment here is not unlike the one you made regarding the inherently risky nature of franchise operations and Doug Ducey in a different post. You’re point regarding Homeland Security by itself is valid. But that doesn’t mean Trent Franks is something other than a fear mongering, Muslim hating buffoon.

      I know a little about this, because Franks’ mentor on this front was John Shadegg, against home I ran for Congress. During my run, Shadegg was urging large audiences on a regular basis (including 2000 or so at the 2008 AIPAC event here) to read two books, Knowing the Enemy and America Alone. Both were anti-Muslim screeds. The first used selective passages from the Koran to define Muslims, as if the same couldn’t be done to Christians, Jews or Mormons by selectively quoting their holy books. The second focused on how Muslims were breeding faster than those in Europe, and would rise as a monolithic force to isolate America. At one point, the author actually tried to explain away the genocide in Bosnia by referencing the higher fertility rate of Bosnians as compared to Serbs. And Shadegg, Franks’ mentor and intellectual better, was promoting these two screeds as if they were great works.

      • I will take what you say about Trent Franks at face value because I really don’t know much about him. From what you say he sounds like quite the rascal.

        My comments about the Homeland Security Department is one of those situations I encounter on this blog rather frequently. I go off subject because I have something to say that only slightly touches on the subject. I am not a primary writer for the blog (I can almost hear the sighs of relief) so I have to wait until someone posts a message that is close to something I want to talk about. Sometimes my message strikes a chord, but most times it’s ignored. I guess I should stay on topic, but sometimes that is sort of boring.

        Anyway, there is a threat from some adherents of Islam, but not most of them. Most of them want the same things out of life that I do. To paint them all with the same paint brush is stupid. If Trent Franks is doing that, then he is stupid for doing so. I wonder if he has ever actually met a Muslim? Probably not.

        • Yes, there is a threat from some adherents of Islam, but, as you say, not most of them. And adherents of Islam are not the only threat we face. Moreover, the threat we face from adherents of Islam may be fueled by something other than Islam (povery or political subjugation, for example). I actually saw a piece recently, I believe in Salon, that provided support for that proposition.

          So, does it really make sense to use Islam as the marker for identifying potential threats? It seems like there are better indicators available.

          I agree with your comment about DHS, but, if you go back and look at Trent Franks’ logic (ISIS will be teaming up with Iran), you actually don’t need DHS to tell you his head is stuffed with feathers.

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