Sheriff Baca, GOP congressman clash over Baca's support of Muslim group
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca shot back at a congressman who warned him during a congressional hearing Thursday that a Muslim group the sheriff supports is affiliated with terrorists and is "using" him.
The reference to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose Southern California branch Baca has allied with, came during a controversial House hearing on the question of whether American Muslims are becoming radicalized.
"You are aware" that CAIR is affiliated with Hamas, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) said.
"No I'm not aware," Baca interrupted.
"Let me bring this to your attention ... I'm trying to get you to understand that they might be using you," Cravaack said.
Baca, noticeably irritated, told the congressman that he is aware of no criminal allegations have been made against CAIR. If there were any such allegations, he said, "bring them to court."
"We don't play around with criminals in my world," Baca said before the packed hearing.
The tense exchange wasn't Baca's first on the issue.
During a hearing last year, Baca cut off a congressman who asked the sheriff why he attended CAIR fund-raisers, despite the group's "radical" speech. Baca called the line of questioning from then-Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) "un-American."
"If he thinks I'm afraid of what he said, I will go to 10 fund-raisers because he said it," Baca said later, before labeling Souder an “amateur intelligence officer."
On Thursday, Baca testified that Muslim leaders have worked well with law enforcement in Los Angeles County -- the result, he said, of regular community outreach.
Democrats on the panel, many of whom had blasted the premise of the hearing as unfairly singling out Muslims, heaped praise on Baca, the only law enforcement official to attend on behalf of either side.
On his way to do an interview afterward with Al Jazeera English, Baca said the hearing -- called by Rep. Pete King -- as a whole was productive, but he was disappointed in Cravaack's questions.
"I hate to even imagine what his motives are," Baca said.
-- Robert Faturechi in Washington
Photo: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, arrives for the first in a series of hearings on the the American Muslim community and whether it is becoming radicalized. Critics say the hearings will stigmatize Muslim Americans. Credit: Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT / March 10, 2011