Reporting Tancredo won't seek re-election, Colorado media omit his controversial remarks, actions

Numerous Colorado media outlets reported on U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-CO) announcement that he would not seek a sixth term. But while most reports noted that Tancredo's primary issue was illegal immigration and his declaration that he's accomplished everything he could do on the issue, they failed to mention Tancredo's history of controversial actions, extreme rhetoric, and misleading or false statements.

Reporting on U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-CO) October 28 announcement that he will not seek a sixth term in Congress, Colorado media generally noted he has been an “outspoken” opponent of illegal immigration, but numerous reports failed to note Tancredo's history of controversial actions, extreme rhetoric, and misleading or false statements. For example, Tancredo proposed that the United States threaten to bomb Islamic holy sites to deter a possible nuclear terror attack on U.S. cities, falsely claimed that Miami is “the murder capital of the world,” and reportedly fabricated a poll indicating public agreement with his statement that Miami had become a “Third World country.”

An October 29 article in the Rocky Mountain News by M.E. Sprengelmeyer reported, “Tancredo parlayed a back-bench seat in Congress into a national megaphone to oppose illegal immigration, denounce a so-called 'cult of multiculturalism' and warn about a 'clash of civilizations' between radical Islam and Western Civilizations.” However, the News failed to report any of the inflammatory statements Tancredo has made regarding Islam, such as his suggestion to threaten retaliatory attacks on Islamic holy sites to deter nuclear terror attacks on the United States.

Similarly, The Denver Post reported in an October 29 online article that Tancredo “said he had decided not to seek a sixth term because he had accomplished all he could in the House on the immigration issue.” The Post also noted that when he “was first elected in 1998, Tancredo said he would serve no more than two terms. Then, in 2002, he said he changed his mind because there was no one in Congress to take the lead on the immigration issue.”

An October 29 Associated Press article about the announcement reported, “The five-term lawmaker said illegal immigration, his core issue, now has national prominence and he doesn't need to remain in Congress to promote it.”

Several October 29 television network news affiliate broadcasts also reported on Tancredo's announcement that he would not seek re-election, and noted that immigration was his signature issue. On KDVR Fox 31's Good Day Colorado at 5 a.m., anchor Shaul Turner stated, “Tancredo says he's done all he can at his job in the U.S. House, especially battling illegal immigration.” Anchor Christine Chang reported on KMGH's 7News at 6 a.m. that “Tancredo says he has done all he can on the issue of immigration in the House and the run for president has taken a heavy toll on him and his family.” And KCNC's CBS4 News at 5:30 a.m. anchor Tom Mustin reported, “Tancredo is known as an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration.” Yet, each of these reports ignored Tancredo's extremist views about illegal immigration, such as when he compared the city of Miami, Florida, to a “Third World country” and falsely claimed it was the “murder capital of the world.”

Among other controversial actions and extremist or factually misleading statements by Tancredo that Colorado media outlets failed to mention in reporting on Tancredo's announcement:

The U.S. could “take out” Islamic holy sites

During the August 5 Republican presidential candidate debate, Tancredo responded to a statement from debate moderator George Stephanopoulos, who noted that in discussing deterrence of a nuclear attack on the United States, Tancredo told a group of Iowans on July 31: “If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina,” according to CNN's “Political Ticker” website. Stephanopoulos said the State Department called the idea “reprehensible” and “absolutely crazy.” Tancredo responded: “My task as president of the United States is primarily to do one thing ... to protect and defend this country. And that means to deter -- and I want to underline 'deter' -- any kind of aggression, especially the type we are threatened with by Al Qaida, which is nuclear attack.”

In 2005, Tancredo came under fire after he suggested “the U.S. could 'take out' Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons,” according to a July 18, 2005, Associated Press article.

Singing “Dixie”

While attending a fundraiser for the conservative Americans Have Had Enough Coalition at the South Carolina State Museum on September 9, 2006, Tancredo delivered an anti-immigration speech in a room draped with Confederate flags and reportedly joined in the singing of the Southern anthem “Dixie” with members of the “neo-confederate” South Carolina League of the South. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League describe the League of the South as a white-supremacist hate group.

Later, on the June 22 broadcast of KBDI Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out, Tancredo asserted that the museum where he delivered the anti-immigration speech was “a Confederate museum.” In fact, the South Carolina State Museum features a variety of exhibits and is not just a “Confederate history [museum] ... that has Confederate stuff all over the place,” as Tancredo dubiously claimed. Furthermore, former Post columnist Jim Spencer wrote on September 18, 2006, that “Tancredo's people conceded that the [Confederate] flags had been moved in from an adjacent room by people attending the event.”

Miami is “a Third World country” and the “murder capital of the world”

In November 2006, Tancredo called Miami a “Third World country,” saying: “Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country ... You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.” His comments generated controversy and criticism from Republican politicians including then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

During the November 28 broadcast of KMGH's 7News Now at 4 p.m., Tancredo falsely claimed that Miami is the “murder capital of the world.” In fact, FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data show that in 2005, Miami experienced 54 murders out of a total city population of 388,295; that equated to a murder rate of 0.014 percent -- lower than a number of U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more, including Baltimore, Detroit, and St. Louis.

Tancredo also claimed during that broadcast that his comments “had nothing to do with race.” However, Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa told the Post that the congressman's statements about Miami being a “Third World country” were in reference to Miami's Haitian-American population, which is predominantly black.

Furthermore, a February 6 syndicated column (accessed through the Nexis database) by Noticiero Univision television news anchor Maria Elena Salinas reported that a poll cited by Tancredo during an interview on CNN's The Situation Room apparently does not exist. Tancredo told host Wolf Blitzer in January that a Miami Herald poll showed 70 percent of respondents “supported him” after he likened Miami to a “Third World country” ; according to Salinas, the Herald said “there was no such poll.”

“Reformation of the Islamic faith is highly unlikely”

On September 20, 2006, Tancredo sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI following the pope's controversial comments about Islam that touched off a wave of protests from Muslims across the globe. In the letter, which urged the pope not to apologize for the statements, Tancredo smeared Islam as a whole, claiming, “Like you, I believe any reformation of the Islamic faith is highly unlikely because it would require a radical reinterpretation of the Koran, something that you have correctly noted would be nearly impossible as Muslims view the Koran as a document that cannot be interpreted by man.” Tancredo ended his letter:

Whether we want to admit it or not, the western world is locked in a struggle against radical Islam whose practitioners and adherents are inextricably linked to terrorism. If we are to successfully defend ourselves against the desire of our enemies to impose a caliphate on the world, we must first be willing to openly identify them.

From the October 29 Rocky Mountain News article “Wait 'til next year -- and Tancredo will retire,” by M.E. Sprengelmeyer:

Even if he loses his long-shot bid for the White House, Rep. Tom Tancredo will be leaving the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of 2008.

Tancredo, 61, waited until after the Colorado Rockies' last out of the World Series on Sunday night before announcing that he plans to retire from Congress at the end of this, his fifth term.

“It's the fact that I really believe I have done all I can do in the House, especially about the issue (immigration) about which I care greatly,” he said.

Tancredo said other people are now taking up leadership on the immigration issue.

On a personal note, he added, “I am certainly looking forward to a time when at least a week can go by when I don't have to get on an airplane.”

The decision is not a surprise, considering Tancredo's repeated complaints that his presidential run was taking a heavy toll on him and his family. But it is sure to set off a mad succession scramble in his solidly conservative, suburban Denver district.

Tancredo parlayed a back-bench seat in Congress into a national megaphone to oppose illegal immigration, denounce a so-called “cult of multiculturalism” and warn about a “clash of civilizations” between radical Islam and Western civilizations. Those issues have been the centerpiece of Tancredo's bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, although he has yet to break out of single digits in most polls. That campaign continues, with the first votes scheduled in the Iowa precinct caucuses in January.

From the October 29 Denver Post online article “Tancredo won't seek re-election” :

Rep. Tom Tancredo will not seek another term in Congress.

Tancredo, who is also seeking his party's presidential nomination, said he had decided not to seek a sixth term because he had accomplished all he could in the House on the immigration issue.

“I've done everything I could do,” the Littleton Republican said. “The reason why I chose to run again way back when I had to make the decision about breaking the term-limits pledge was because I had no one to turn over the baton to, and now I do. There are lots of people.”

“The issue of illegal immigration is on the front burner,” he added. “I'll try to keep it that way.”

When he was first elected in 1998, Tancredo said he would serve no more than two terms. Then, in 2002, he said he changed his mind because there was no one in Congress to take the lead on the immigration issue.

In an e-mail to supporters, Tancredo said that, in terms of the House, “I can safely say my work there is done. I stress the word 'there.' ”

“Needless to say, there is still a lot we can do to hold everyone's feet to the fire for the next fourteen months,” Tancredo's e-mail continued. “And our office still has the responsibility to serve the people of the 6th Congressional District in as professional and effective manner as has been our tradition for the last nine years.”

Asked whether there weren't other issues he could tackle for his district, Tancredo said, “because I have been a lightning rod for as long as I was, my string probably ran out.”

From the October 29 Associated Press article “Tancredo Says He Won't Seek House Seat,” by George Merritt:

Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo said Monday he will not seek re-election to his Colorado seat in the House in 2008.

He will continue his long-shot bid for the White House.

The five-term lawmaker said illegal immigration, his core issue, now has national prominence and he doesn't need to remain in Congress to promote it.

“The issue now has a life of its own and it doesn't need one particular person to champion it,” he said.

“I feel my job, my task, has been completed. And I am very much at peace with the idea that if I'm not elected president then I won't be running” for another term in Congress, he said.

His decision was first reported on the Rocky Mountain News Web site.

From the October 29 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's Good Day Colorado at 5 a.m.:

TURNER: Tom Tancredo says he'll be leaving office at the end of next year. The Republican lawmaker tells the Rocky Mountain News he'll leave even if his long-shot White House run is unsuccessful. Tancredo says he's done all he can at his job in the U.S. House, especially battling illegal immigration. This is his fifth term in the House.

From the October 29 broadcast of KMGH's 7News at 6 a.m.:

CHANG: Representative Tom Tancredo is reportedly planning to retire. He made the comments to the Rocky Mountain News after the Rockies lost last night, and he says even if his bid for the White House falls short, he will not run for a sixth term in the U.S. House. Tancredo says he has done all he can on the issue of immigration in the House and the run for president has taken a heavy toll on him and his family.

From the October 29 broadcast of KCNC's CBS4 News at 5:30 a.m.:

MUSTIN: Even if he fails in his presidential bid, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo says he will not seek another term in the U.S. House. Tancredo tells our partners at the Rocky Mountain News, quote, “I have done all I can do in the House,” end quote. Tancredo is known as an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration. He is currently serving in his fifth term.