Except Israelis, of course.
At this point in a nauseatingly long election cycle, Donald Trump‘s rampant xenophobia has been well documented. He famously took his bigotry to an entirely unprecedented level following the Paris Attacks when he pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion people globally – from entering the United States, a plan he reiterated following the Brussels Attacks last month.
While his rhetoric has been heavily criticized on both sides of the aisle, it has also inspired many xenophobes disguising themselves as policymakers to be more vocal in their desire to inch America closer towards total isolationism.
No one candidate may typify this greater than Carlos Beruff, himself an affluently brash real estate developer, and Florida resident. He is currently the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in the state.
During a question-and-answer session following a speech to the Broward County Republican Party Monday evening, Beruff was asked by someone in the audience about his “position on Muslim immigration.”
“I think our immigration department is broken,” he responded immediately, “And I don’t think it’s safe to allow anybody from the Middle East into this country.”
When a reporter following the session had the audacity to question – as many similarly have Trump – as to exactly how this ban would be implemented, Beruff predictably deflected the question saying, “I think it’s pretty simple. We have a system that doesn’t work. When they fix that, I don’t care. But right now we have a terrorist threat that’s very real. You want to ignore it, but I don’t.”
“Pretty much anybody that’s got a terrorist organization in it, which is pretty much all the Middle East,” Beruff continued, adding that he thinks “Israel’s security measures are pretty strong. Israel is an exception.”
Beruff was quick to note that because he wanted to ban all people from the Middle East, not just Muslims, there was nothing bigoted about his positions.
“Unless you can tell me how you get the system to be able to do that correctly, I think it applies to everybody.”
For his part, Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy swiftly condemned Beruff’s comments on Tuesday.
“Carlos Beruff’s statement is not only disgraceful, but his full embrace of Donald Trump’s extreme bigotry is flat-out un-American,” Murphy said in a statement. “Mr Beruff’s asinine comments and out-of-touch values are not just dangerous to our democracy, but are absolutely unacceptable for any candidate who wants to represent Floridians in the U.S. Senate.”
Beruff, who released his first TV ad earlier this month, is part of a growing trend of GOP politicians breaking away from party establishments to ride Trump’s wave of anti-immigration and isolationist rhetoric, hoping it will reward them in November.
Yet, in a statement Tuesday afternoon, Beruff was already backtracking from the inflammatory comments Monday.
“Democrats refuse to deal with reality,” Beruff said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, “They make things up, sensationalize common sense solutions and exacerbate this obsession over political correctness. I stand by my answer and will repeat: anyone with ties, or possible ties, to terrorism should not be allowed in the United States.”
The statement already presents a more limited lens than his answer in Broward County, which previously applied to “anybody from the Middle East.”
Florida GOP leaders supporting Beruff were quick to defend the candidate, saying the statements had nothing “to do with Muslim or not” and that “We’ve got to go and make our people safe,” further continuing a deeply disturbing trend within the Republican party of normalizing bigotry in the name of security.
Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry has become fashionable in Republican Party politics,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIC) “Islamophobia almost seems to be a litmus test now for Republican candidates, that they have to advocate somehow anti-Muslim bigotry and intolerance. It’s strange because many Muslims are social conservatives. And American Muslims should be a voting bloc that the Republican Party is seeking to attract and not repel.”
Beruff is hoping to be elected to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Senator Marco Rubio. It is expected to be a highly contested race in the general election.