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Sheriff Baca argues with Republican congressman about Islamic group

March 17, 2010 |  5:42 pm
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca argued with a Republican congressman from Indiana during a hearing Wednesday when the lawmaker questioned his relationship with an Islamic nonprofit group.

Baca was in Washington testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security when he was questioned by Rep. Mark Souder about attending fundraisers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, officials said.

The group, according to Souder, espouses radical speech -- an assertion that angered Baca.

"The sheriff gets his ire up when politicians begin to use their bully pulpit for personal attacks," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

The exchange between Baca and Souder was recorded by a reporter for KPCC-FM (89.3). To hear the recording, click here.

"There's a substantial difference between protected speech and government officials going to fundraisers for organizations that do speech that is radical. And Sheriff Baca, you've been 10 times to the fundraisers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which even the FBI has separated themselves from," Souder said, according to the recording.

Baca shot back, citing his service in the Marines and support of Israel, according to the report. "The security of Israel has always been at the forefront of my thinking," he said. "And for you to associate me somehow through some circuitous attack on CAIR, is not only inappropriate, it is un-American."

Whitmore said department records show that Baca attended two CAIR fundraisers in recent years.

"Just because they are Muslim Americans does not mean they want to destroy Israel or the U.S.," Whitmore said.

-- Robert J. Lopez