Insight With Beth Ruyak

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U.S. Senate Candidate Sanchez Defends Islamic Caliphate Statement

Damian Dovarganes / AP

California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, second from right, poses for a photo with supporters, Daniel Cisneros, second from left, and Eboney Pearson, right, at the California Democrats State Convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, May 16, 2015.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

California Congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez is standing by her statement that up to 20 percent of the world’s Muslims want to form an Islamic caliphate – and that they’re willing to use terrorism to do it.

Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, made the statement last month in an online video interview with Larry King, and the backlash came quickly. Groups that advocate for immigrants, Muslim and progressive causes criticized Sanchez. Some even compared her comments to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s. 

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In an interview with Capital Public Radio, Sanchez pointed to her experience as the second-ranking Democrat on both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

“I would consider myself, quite honestly, an expert on the issues of terrorism,” she said.

And Sanchez isn’t apologizing:

“My comments were that some people have said to me – and it's true, some people have said to me – that between 5 and 20 percent of Muslims in the world want a caliphate,” she said in the interview. “Nobody has been able to refute those numbers.”

Sanchez says she’s fought for the rights of Muslims and every other religion, and says America must understand the roots of ISIS and other terrorist groups in order to develop a strategy to defeat them.

Also in the interview, Sanchez criticized her leading opponent in California’s U.S. Senate race, Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sanchez said Harris failed to adequately address a backlog in a statewide database that tracks felons attempting to purchase guns.

“The Legislature gave the Attorney General $25 million to match up those people who were felons versus those people who were buying guns,” Sanchez said in the interview. “Nothing was done. I mean, $25 million was spent, but we don’t have that database.”

The database has in fact existed for more than a decade, but Harris has drawn fire for what critics say was her slow response.

The Attorney General’s office told the Legislature this week that she’s made progress in reducing the backlog – and could do more if lawmakers make the additional funding permanent.

In a statement, Harris’s campaign called Sanchez’s comments “nothing more than an attempt to distract from the congresswoman’s record protecting the gun lobby.

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Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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