Washington Post By Peter Holley June 5 at 6:08 PM
When Clay Higgins was a sheriff’s department spokesman in rural Louisiana, his rare candor precipitated his downfall, but not before it catapulted him to online fame and, more recently, a seat in the U.S. House.
Like another Republican politician who rode a populist wave to Washington this year — also with a penchant for making controversial statements off the cuff — the newly elected congressman finds himself under fire for making controversial statements about Islam.
“Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter,” the Louisiana Republican posted on Facebook on Sunday. “Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”
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Higgins’s statement — which has been shared more than 2,500 times and spawned 1,400 comments — was released hours after three men using knives and a vehicle killed seven people during a bloody rampage in central London.
Saturday night’s attack wounded dozens, including four police officers. Eighteen people remain in critical condition.
On Facebook, some users responded to his message with dismay.
“Wow, you are no better than a terrorist,” Misty Johnson wrote. “I’m more afraid of people like you than a refugee who was vetted for 2 years by 7 Intel agencies. I think we need better vetting for our representatives. You are an unhinged lunatic and playing right into what ISIS wants.”
“This is extremely hateful,” Tyler F. Thigpen wrote. “I didn’t vote for you, but you represent me and I’d like to hear a lot less hateful speech from the politicians that serve me.”
The free world… all of Christendom… is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be…
Posted by Captain Clay Higgins on Sunday, June 4, 2017
Reached by phone, Higgins told The Washington Post that he was surprised that his message was interpreted by some as hateful or an indictment against Islam — in fact, he said, he didn’t view the post as controversial at all.
He said he was calling for the death of Islamic terrorists, not peaceful Muslims. When he used the word “Christendom,” he said, he was referencing the Western world, not calling for a war between Christianity and Islam. Working in law enforcement, Higgins said, he interacted with people from different faiths and backgrounds and has always respected people based on “what was in their heart.”
“I can tell you that there weren’t many Muslims in that part of Louisiana, but those that I have met have been very cool and very loving,” Higgins said. “Many Muslims are American citizens and I’d give my last life’s blood for any one of them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to speak out boldly and from my heart about the threat we face as a nation and as a world.”
Higgins said he decided to speak out on Facebook after seeing news coverage of the London incidents, which occurred several weeks after a suicide bomber’s attack that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Higgins said he was deeply affected by both attacks and believes some Americans fail to realize our society is at war with an enemy who must be killed to be defeated.
“I think I’m well-documented as being a compassionate, loving human being,” he said. “But I got no love for people who blow up children at a concert. What kind of a man would strap a bomb to his chest and blow up children?”
“I’m passionate about it because I love my fellow man,” Higgins said. “I would remove those that would destroy the innocents amongst my fellow man.”
Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told The Post that Higgins’s comments follow a familiar pattern of public officials walking back broad generalizations about Islam in the wake of tragic incidents.
“Unfortunately, we see this each time after one of these tragic incidents,” said Hooper, referring to the attack in London. “When there’s no push back against Islamophobic rhetoric, people see that as tacit endorsement of anti-Islamic rhetoric.”
“In particular, an elected official at the national level should not be making emotional statements, but should respond to tragedy with well-thought out statements that don’t make the situation worse,” he added.
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Higgins’s willingness to speak his mind brought him notoriety in the historic heart of Cajun country, where Higgins was a spokesman for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office in Opelousas from December 2014 until he resigned in March 2016.