Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Friday acknowledged a key flaw in his call to “test” all Muslims in the United States and deport those who believe in Sharia law, admitting it’d be “impossible” to deport Muslims who are U.S. citizens.
In a Facebook live broadcast, Gingrich touched on the backlash his initial comments received and said that the news media took them out of context.
“A great deal of the coverage of what I said on Fox last night has been distorted,” Gingrich said. “The news media went into a hysteria overnight trying to over-exaggerate what I was saying. This is not about targeting a religion.”
“This is about looking for certain characteristics that painfully, we have learned time after time, involve killing people,” he elaborated.
But he seemed to take a different tack while discussing how to deal with a pattern of terrorist activity from American citizens, saying that it would be “impossible” to deport them.
“With an American citizen, deportation is impossible,” he said. “It’s not appropriate under the Constitution and there, historically we’ve always said, if you fought against the United States, that the correct answer were basically jail as opposed to deportation. I think we have to talk through what should be the right way of handling people who are here, but are not citizens.”
Gingrich doubled-down on the narrative that America is at war with the Islamic State terror group and argued that in times of war, certain rights must be compromised.
“I believe that if we’re in war we have the obligation to have the state act in such a way that it protects us from being killed,” he continued. “So we need to set up a set of rules that relate to what Americans can and can’t do in a time of war.”
The former House speaker went on to urge the FBI to more closely monitor suspected terrorists, returning to policies it adapted after the 9/11 attacks.
He concluded with a call for Congress to draft new laws addressing terrorism and surveillance and charged that terrorists want to wield the freedom of religion enshrined in the U.S. Constitution against Americans.
“We have to have the courage to have an honest discussion, and some of it is going to be touchy,” he said. “But I think the discussion is very, very important.”
Gingrich began to broadcast on Facebook about an hour after Donald Trump announced he’d picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his running mate, a position that Gingrich was also considered for. Gingrich didn’t react to that announcement, but did say he hoped to have a president dedicated to defeating the Islamic State.
Watch the full broadcast below: