Representative Peter T. King, the congressman representing the wealthy suburbs of Long Island, and current chair of the Homeland Security, set to begin his enormously controversial hearings on Muslim extremism in the United States today.
Likely you have heard mention of this since King is, shall we say, not one to miss a camera. Ever.
(Last we heard from King he wanted the NYT charged with espionage and WikiLeaks declared a terrorist organisation.)
And while King claims that “The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding citizens,” this view has not stopped him from plowing ahead with his hearings as decision that has resulted in much outrage, two scathing NYT editorials, frequent comparisons to Sen. Joe McCarthy and witch hunts. None of which, it should be noted, appear to have phased King even one bit.
So who is Peter King? Well let’s just say this isn’t his first brush with controversy.
King earned his JD from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1968. He worked for the Nassau County District Attorney's Office until Denis Dillon, a democrat, was elected district attorney in 1974. He then moved to a job at the County Executive's office, all the time remaining loyal to the powerful local Republican Party leader Joseph Margiotta.
However, Dillon and King became political allies, over their agreeing views in opposition to abortion and support for the Irish nationalist movement. In 1980 the two men accompanied then senator-elect Alphonse 'Al' D'Amato on a fact-finding trip to Belfast. It is supposedly during this trip that King's involvement with the IRA began.
In 1992 King was elected as a Representative in the third 3rd congressional district. According to the New York Sun, King immediately traveled to Belfast to announce his election, and invited Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams to the swearing-in ceremony. Upon his return to Washington, King discovered that British Embassy had been warning Republican leaders to 'watch out' for King.
According to WaPo, in the beginning of his term King also gave numerous speeches at the Islamic centre in Westbury New York and held book signings in the prayer hall. King had Muslim interns and was one of the few Republicans who supported U.S. intervention to help Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. In 1993, as a guest of honour, he cut the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the centre's new $3 million prayer hall.
In 1994, the cease-fire between the IRA and the British government proved to be a political asset to King: the peace process needed the help of the American government.
According to the New York Sun,
'The Clinton administration realised that there were very few people in America who knew anything about Mr. Adams, and that Peter King was one of them. Suddenly Mr. King found himself in demand, invited to the White House for private chats with the president and on one occasion to a Super Bowl pizza party...In later years, by all accounts, Mr. King became an important go-between in talks that led to peace in Northern Ireland, drawing on his personal contacts with leaders of I.R.A.'s political wing, Sinn Fein, and winning plaudits from both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, the former president and the British prime minister.'
As his political career grew, so did King's ability to shove his way into the spotlight. In the mid-1990s he referred to then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as 'political roadkill' in an article in the Weekly Standard. During the Bill Clinton impeachment trials, King was one of the few house Republicans who vocally advocated in favour of Clinton.
Everything changed after September 11th. Weeks after the 2001 attacks, King told WABC that the military nuclear weapons in Afghanistan if Islamic terrorists could possibly deploy chemical weapons on American soil. Four years later, he called for the IRA to disband after a bank raid and murder were attributed to the militant group.
In a 2004 radio interview with Sean Hannity, King insisted that 'no American Muslim leaders are cooperating in the war or terror,' and '80-85 per cent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.'
The following year, King was named the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, and in September of 2007 he gave an interview to Politico stating that there were 'Too many mosques in this country
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