CNN's Cuomo Uses Fuzzy Math to Slam 'BS' of Trump Jr. 'Dehumanizing' Refugees

On Tuesday's New Day, CNN co-host Chris Cuomo not only showed a double standard in aggressively debating GOP Rep. Sean Duffy on the issue of restricting immigration from Muslim countries while going more softly on Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, but he also tried to downplay the odds of refugees committing terrorist acts as he misleadingly recalled the findings of the libertarian CATO Institute on the subject of risk to Americans posed by refugees.

As the Washington Post's Philip Bump, who wrote an article on the subject, appeared as a guest in the show's first hour, Cuomo set him up to argue against Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., as Cuomo accused him of "dehumanizing" Syrian refugees by comparing them to pieces of Skittles candy. After recalling that Trump Jr. had in a tweet analogized accepting Syrian refugees, some of whom might be terrorist infiltrators, to eating from a bowl of Skittles in which a few pieces of the candy are poisoned, Cuomo went on a mini-rant as he complained:

This is getting a lot of criticism -- and rightly so. One, it's dehumanizing these Syrian refugees who come here. Put up the picture of that Syrian refugee boy that we should think about every time we talk about who we're talking about. We're not talking about Skittles. We're not talking about candy. We're talking about families who are fleeing for their lives, and there are a lot of kids like this.

He added:

We didn't cherry pick the one kid who's been a casualty of this war. So they're not candy. So let's put the humanity to the side, and just deal with the numbers. This is what the campaign is trying to do: Scare you. "These kids, they don't look like that, they're killers." What's the reality?

Although it is true that Trump Jr.'s bowl full of Skittles analogy greatly inflates the numbers on what proportion of refugees are likely to be terrorist infiltrators, the CATO Institute numbers cited by Bump are themselves very misleading in trying to make the likelihood of violent problems seem very tiny.

Instead of trying to estimate how many acts of mass violence in public places might be perpetrated by a small number of terrorist infiltrators, the study focused on the odds that an individual person would die from being killed by a refugee, finding the chances to be less than one out of three billion.

When Rep. Duffy came aboard as a guest in the second hour, Cuomo cited the "one in three billion" chance of being killed by a refugee, without addressing the general probability which likely would be a near 100 percent chance that at least one terrorist would make it through and stage an attack.

After paraphrasing Trump Jr.'s Skittles comment, the CNN host bristled:

Whoa, that's a powerful metaphor. It's also BS. The numbers aren't anything like that. The risk is like one in over three billion. The Washington Post wrote a piece about this. You would need two Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with Skittles to find three bad ones in it, and that being the right ratio.You're dehumanizing these refugees. That's not what America is about. And your "extreme vetting" means what at the end of the day? How would you make it better now, except keeping everyone out, which is not what this country is about?

The CATO study -- which examines refugees who entered the country between 1975 and 2015 -- found 20 refugees out of more than three million who turned out to be terrorists. The study did not address whether refugees from a particular region like Syria where the U.S. is in an active war with an enemy that is known for utilizing terrorist attacks in public places night manage to be infiltrated by a larger number of a more determined enemy, with the study leaning on refugees from the past who no doubt came from various regions.

The study also did not address the blatant difference between terrorists killing 10 or 50 or 100 people in a public place, drawing attention and having impact beyond those directly involved, versus the same number of people being killed spread out one a day in completely separate individual crime incidents. Terrorist attacks in public places deserve their own category of analysis because their impact is so much greater.

Cuomo and Rep. Duffy spent most of the segment debating the issue of accepting refugees and vetting immigrants, before ending with a debate over the Obama administration's recent controversial deal to compensate the Iranian government which coincided with hostages being released.

In the third hour, when Democrat Ellison appeared as a guest, Cuomo began by recalling the Somali refugee who attacked several people at a mall in Minnesota and worried:

Authorities identified the man who attacked several people with a knife at a Minnesota mall on Saturday as 22-year-old Dahir Adan, a Somali refugee who moved to the U.S. as a baby. The incident raising concerns about anti-Muslim and Somali backlash in the area.

After Rep. Ellison responded to Cuomo for expressing his sympathies over the mall attack, the CNN host posed a token contrarian question which his heart was clearly not in given his previous lambasting of Trump Jr. and his debate with Rep. Duffy. Distancing himself from those concerned about Muslim immigration whom he vaguely referred to as "voices," Cuomo posed:

There's no reason to dance around it. You know what an event like this does. It raises the voices who say, "You see, you see. These Muslims, they have it out for us. There is something wrong with these people. We see it again and again. What's your response?"

The relatively short segment with Rep. Ellison -- four and a half minutes versus seven minutes with Rep. Duffy -- ended with Cuomo's third question: "What do you hear within the Muslim community, in your community there in Minnesota, about how to deal with the radicalized group of the faith?"

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Tuesday, September 20, New Day on CNN:

6:22 a.m. ET
CHRIS CUOMO: Now, this piece that you did about what Donald Jr. said -- not Donald Trump -- his son, okay? So, not the man running, but his family has become more than just their kids, right? They're surrogates. So he comes and says, "If I told you that there were three Skittles in a handful that would kill you, would you want that? This is getting a lot of criticism -- and rightly so. One, it's dehumanizing these Syrian refugees who come here. Put up the picture of that Syrian refugee boy that we should think about every time we talk about who we're talking about.

We're not talking about Skittles. We're not talking about candy. We're talking about families who are fleeing for their lives, and there are a lot of kids like this. We didn't cherry pick the one kid who's been a casualty of this war. So they're not candy. So let's put the humanity to the side, and just deal with the numbers. This is what the campaign is trying to do: Scare you. "These kids, they don't look like that, they're killers." What's the reality?

PHILIP BUMP, WASHINGTON POST: So, yeah,  I mean, the point that Donald Trump Jr. is trying to make is obviously you have this pool, and in that pool are some bad apples, so to speak, right? But the problem is scale. And I just looked at the numbers last night. There was data that was done by the CATO Institute, which is a libertarian institute.

CUOMO: Koch brothers.

BUMP: It's backed by the Koch brothers, exactly, right. And they estimate that it's essentially -- the odds of being killed by a refugee in a terror attack are about one in three billion annually. One in three billion. So essentially what you need is, you need an Olympic-sized swimming pool and another Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with Skittles, and there are three Skittles in there that are the poisoned ones. So you can eat hundreds of thousands of  handfuls of Skittles, and not have a problem. And that's the point. The point is that this is -- to the point that was made in the previous panel -- this is really not something that is an existential threat on a daily basis to most Americans. People may feel that way, but the Skittles analogy-

CUOMO: Right.

BUMP: -because it is a vast more population that you'd be picking from.

ALISYN CAMEROTA: And yet, David, there are mistakes made, as we've seen in our immigration system, as well as who gets citizenship. I mean, at the same time that this is happening, we find out about this gross mistake of making something like 800 people citizens who had actually been pegged for deportation. There are mistakes, and Donald trump can seize on those.

(...)

7:35 a.m.
CHRIS CUOMO: So you look at this situation. People are afraid. No question about it. The fear is not backed up by the actual threat. Is that something that you accept as a premise?

[REP. SEAN DUFFY (R-WI)]

"Feels." Statistically, not such a big threat. Intelligence officials, as you well know, put it low on their list of priorities. But let's stick with the fear because it's real, and if you want to play to it in politics, that's fine, but you have to do something about it. So Trump says, "I will. This will go away under a Trump presidency." So you get to the obvious: How? Extreme vetting. "I'm going to extreme vetting." What does that mean? Extreme vetting.

[REP. DUFFY]

You will never be able to guarantee any vetting from Ireland, from Italy, (inaudible).

REP. DUFFY: No, no (inaudlble) from Ireland. I'm Irish.

CUOMO: You will never be able to guarantee it. We both know that. What I'm saying is, we have to separate the hype from the actual facts on the ground of this. You know the money went back to Iran. It was Iran's money. It was part of the deal. It wasn't a gift. But even that's a distraction, though, Sean. I'm talking about how we -- he said, "I can stop this here. I'll do it with extreme vetting. The vetting that we do for Syrian refugees is better than any vetting we do for any other part of the system. And the proof is in the pudding. This Skittles comment that Donald Jr. made -- if you want to put up his comment, you can -- he said, "If I gave you a handful of Skittles and I told you that three of them were going to kill you, would you eat that handful of Skittles?

Whoa, that's a powerful metaphor. It's also BS. The numbers aren't anything like that. The risk is like one in over three billion. The Washington Post wrote a piece about this. You would need two Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with Skittles to find three bad ones in it, and that being the right ratio.You're dehumanizing these refugees. That's not what America is about. And your "extreme vetting" means what at the end of the day? How would you make it better now, except keeping everyone out, which is not what this country is about?

[REP. DUFFY]

But I'm saying that your system works really, really well, Sean, statistically. But the amount of crime that you get out of these -- if you wanted to create a rule like that to keep us safe, anyone who makes under $40,000 a year should be taken out of the country because they commit most of the crimes. You wouldn't do that. That's ridiculous.

[REP. DUFFY]

Because when you follow through who you let in and what they do in this country, they commit less crime than everybody else. That's why.

REP. DUFFY: Because, but when they commit crimes, they're very dangerous, they're taking out guns and knives and stabbing people.

CUOMO: No, they're often -- some, but less than the rest of the population. So why villainize them?

REP. DUFFY: But go back to this point of, America wants you to keep them safe. Your first responsibility isn't to anyone in Syria. The responsibility is to your citizens. I think that's what Trump is talking-

CUOMO: Right. Many of whom are Syrians, by the way.

But it was a deal that was agreed to by both sides.

Plenty of Republicans were in favor of the deal. It got voted on.

The administration says that it's not true, that it was negotiated decades ago about an arms deal, not about the hostages.

(...)

8:20 a.m.
CUOMO: Authorities identified the man who attacked several people with a knife at a Minnesota mall on Saturday as 22-year-old Dahir Adan, a Somali refugee who moved to the U.S. as a baby. The incident raising concerns about anti-Muslim and Somali backlash in the area. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman from Minnesota Keith Ellison. I am sorry for your community and for the first responders that have been victimized by this situation. Congressman, thank you for joining us.

[REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN)]

There's no reason to dance around it. You know what an event like this does. It raises the voices who say, "You see, you see. These Muslims, they have it out for us. There is something wrong with these people. We see it again and again. What's your response?"

[REP. ELLISON]

What do you hear within the Muslim community, in your community there in Minnesota, about how to deal with the radicalized group of the faith?

[REP. ELLISON]

Tell the Truth 2016

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