After Belgium Attacks, NBC Warns of ‘Rise of the Right Wing’ in Europe

During NBC’s breaking news coverage of the terrorist attacks in Belgium Tuesday morning, correspondents Andrea Mitchell and Richard Engel wasted no time warning of the “rise of the right wing” throughout Europe in response to such attacks.

In a special report just before 7 a.m. ET, Mitchell worried: “This is going to have big implications for the migration crisis in Germany and elsewhere because there is a popular notion that migrants are somehow connected with the terror threat. Whether or not that's true, that is the reality.” She added: “And there has been most recently last week in Germany, a bad election for Angela Merkel with the right-wing parties gaining strength...”

Later on Today, in the 8 a.m ET hour, Engel decried similar political fallout:

We're already seeing the rise of the right wing. We're already seeing rise of hate attacks, where people will use the kind of terrorist attacks, these kind of incidents, to vilify all of the Muslim community. Which, of course, only makes the situation worse. Because then people feel isolated, ostracized, ghettoized, and they retreat into their own communities.

In sharp contrast to those declarations, earlier in the 8 a.m. ET hour, correspondent Tom Costello, who had family living in Belgium, voiced the concerns of many in Europe:

I think if you talk to Belgians, and I know many of them because they’re family members, they will tell you that over the last 20-25 years they have felt like they are losing their country. They have felt like because Belgium has such an open immigration policy over the last half century in which they have really allowed almost anybody, especially from these areas that are now breeding terrorism, they’ve allowed these people to come in as refugees, and yet, many of them are not being thoroughly vetted. They are given a rather generous social stipend to live off of. And the Belgians – many Belgians feel like this is now the – they're bearing the fruits of that policy, where they are seeing this kind of terrorism in Belgium.

Here are excerpts of the March 22 coverage:

6:54 AM ET

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SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let’s go to Andrea Mitchell, she’s traveling with President Obama in Havana, Cuba. Andrea, what can you tell us?

ANDREA MITCHELL: U.S. officials telling me – senior officials telling me that the President has been notified, as you would expect. Susan Rice is here with him as well as John Kerry, on this trip. Senior officials, that would be Kerry and Rice and others in the national security complex, are in touch with their Belgian counterparts. Obviously they're talking to their intelligence officials, talking to their European counterparts on what warnings they may have had, what information they may have had as to what group this is.

Security is very tight here. I have to tell you, when we came here from the hotel this morning they – the roads were closed and it also the fact that the President is due today to be giving this major speech here in a theater to the Cuban people on Cuban television, an unprecedented event. So there was already tight security but we had to make all kind of detours to get here this morning.

And you were just pointing out that Belgium is the European community capital and there are a lot of implications to that. It’s not only the NATO capital, but it’s the European Union. There was a lot of criticism of the European Union after the Paris attacks, that their security did not – their security officials were not communicating well on intelligence threats. Similar to the experiences that he we had after 9/11, that there was too much stove-piping, that there were not communications abroad broad sweeps. Well now, this second major attack in a western European capital, as you can imagine, this is going to be another threat, not only to the European Union but to the so-called Schengen ability to travel without visas or passports from one country to the next. That was already under threat.

This is going to have big implications for the migration crisis in Germany and elsewhere because there is a popular notion that migrants are somehow connected with the terror threat. Whether or not that's true, that is the reality. And there has been most recently last week in Germany, a bad election for Angela Merkel with the right-wing parties gaining strength in some of those parliamentary, what we would call a midterm election. So there are a lot of implications in France and Germany for the leadership and this is obviously going to be felt here in the U.S. politically as well. This is a big event throughout Europe and here.

MATT LAUER: It certainly is, Andrea Mitchell, who is traveling with the President in Cuba. She’s in Havana this morning.

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8:07 AM ET

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SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And the Reuters wire service reporting that there are now house-to-house searches being conducted. Investigators going through, looking for potential suspects or anybody with information in connection with these attacks. And we'll turn to Tom Costello, he covers aviation for us, but he’s also quite familiar with Belgium. His family is from there. And we talked this morning earlier, Tom, a bit about the situation in Brussels, particular in this region, the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, which has lately become a community that has housed in recent days, the Paris attackers, and also become something of a center of this kind of Islamist, radical activity.

TOM COSTELLO: Yeah, I think if you talk to Belgians, and I know many of them because they’re family members, they will tell you that over the last 20-25 years they have felt like they are losing their country. They have felt like because Belgium has such an open immigration policy over the last half century in which they have really allowed almost anybody, especially from these areas that are now breeding terrorism, they’ve allowed these people to come in as refugees, and yet, many of them are not being thoroughly vetted. They are given a rather generous social stipend to live off of. And the Belgians – many Belgians feel like this is now the – they're bearing the fruits of that policy, where they are seeing this kind of terrorism in Belgium.

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8:41 AM ET

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MATT LAUER: And, Richard, back to a point you made a second ago, where there can be  dozens – or could be dozens of ISIS-trained operatives or ISIS sympathizers in Europe looking for targets to strike. One of the very things that Europeans love so much about the European Union is that they can move freely between countries. And that is the very thing that makes it so hard to stop terror suspects from moving freely between countries.

RICHARD ENGEL: The open border system that has been inside Europe has come under a tremendous amount of pressure for two reasons over the last several months or about a year. One is the migrant and refugee crisis. As hundreds of thousands of people have been leaving primarily Iraq and Syria and going – making their way up through Turkey, to Greece, to Macedonia, Serbia, and following the migrant trail into Europe. And the second is because of the terrorist implications, because of the security implications.

And where those two meet is a very sensitive and explosive issue for Europe. We're already seeing the rise of the right wing. We're already seeing rise of hate attacks, where people will use the kind of terrorist attacks, these kind of incidents, to vilify all of the Muslim community. Which, of course, only makes the situation worse. Because then people feel isolated, ostracized, ghettoized, and they retreat into their own communities.

LAUER: Alright, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, stand by. Thank you very much.

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Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC