Mark Potok of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center claimed on Monday's Newsroom on CNN that radical Islam wasn't "our biggest domestic terror threat," that instead, "that pretty clearly comes from the radical right in this country." Anchor Suzanne Malveaux touted Potok as "expert on extremism" from "one of the most highly regarded non-governmental operations that are monitoring hate groups."
Malveaux brought on the SPLC spokesman at the bottom of the 12 noon Eastern hour to discuss the upcoming hearings by the House Homeland Security Committee on the radicalization of American Muslims. The anchor first asked him, "From your study of tracking radical groups, potentially hate groups, what do you think of this hearing? Is al Qaeda radicalizing Muslims? Is that our biggest homegrown terrorism threat right now?"
Potok replied with his "radical right" claim, and went on to criticize the chairman of the House committee, Rep. Peter King:
POTOK: Well, I think it's not our biggest domestic terror threat. I think that pretty clearly comes from the radical right in this country, although I would certainly not minimize the threat of jihadist terrorism in this country. Obviously, we have seen a fair amount of it. But what is completely false is, first of all, the idea that Peter King has repeatedly said, that most Muslims are good Americans and so on. You know, in fact what he has said is that 85 percent or 90 percent of the imams running mosques in this country are radical. They're jihadists, and everything suggests that what he says is false. He has also suggested that Muslims are not cooperating with law enforcement, and, you know, we work very closely at the Southern Poverty Law Center with law enforcement officials, and that is absolutely not what they're saying. They're saying they're getting a great deal of cooperation, and in fact, something close to half of the jihadist terror attempts that is have occurred in this country since 9/11 were found out, in fact, because of Muslim informants.
For the rest of the segment, the "expert" hammered on his "radical right" talking point, stating that "both on the radical right, hate groups and so on, and on the jihadist front in this country, the vast majority of people seem to be operating entirely on their own, so-called lone wolves." Potok went on to specify which of these groups or movements concerned him the most:
MALVEAUX: You said in the beginning that it was not the idea of radicalizing Muslims, that that really was not any kind of significant threat when it comes to homegrown terrorism that- are there other groups to be concerned about that take center stage?
POTOK: Sure. Let me say I do think it's a significant threat. I don't mean to minimize it, but there are even larger threats out there. An example, to respond to your question, is within the so-called anti-government patriot movement, what we used to think of as the militia movement back in the 1990s. There is a whole and rapidly-growing kind of sub movement called the 'sovereign citizens' movement.' These are people who believe the government has no right to control them in any way, to pass laws that affect them, to require them to pay taxes, even to require things like driver's licenses and auto registrations. Well, you know, on May 20 of last year, a father and son team of these 'sovereign citizens,' in fact, murdered two officers, police officers, in West Memphis, Arkansas, and badly wounded two others before being killed themselves. You know, this was at an ordinary traffic stop-
POTOK: Set off out just of the blue sky. So, you know, and we're hearing from all over the country from law enforcement officials who are very worried about the sovereign citizens' phenomenon. It's extremely dangerous.
So, CNN's "expert" thinks a movement associated with his one cited incident is somehow a more substantial threat than the Islamism, which has inspired multiple plots and terrorist attacks in this country in recent years.
This kind of liberal hype from Potok isn't new. In April 2010, during an interview on NPR, he played up his theory that there was an "astounding growth" in the militia movement since President Obama's term began and tried to connect this to "mainstream politicians and certain commentators...on cable news television shows."
— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.