There is no doubt Donald Trump has been successful at galvanizing Americans around his campaign -- but in doing so, is he also helping extremists recruit for their cause?
In Saturday’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton forcefully stated that “[Trump] is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are... showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”
While in theory the backlash against the hateful xenophobic comments produced by Mr. Trump has the potential to aid recruiting efforts, no evidence has been found to support Clinton’s comment.
Trump quickly hit back at the Democratic frontrunner, asking for an apology: “She should apologize … She lies about emails, she lies about Whitewater, she lies about everything.”
Understanding that Trump is accusing Clinton of something that he himself is often culpable of, let us take a look at any basis for her comment and what it could mean for her campaign.
Responding to questions of accuracy, the Clinton campaign pointed to an NBCNews.com article that quoted a number of experts who track extremist social media activity. In the article, David Phillips, a program director at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, is quoted as saying, “Trump’s incendiary anti-Muslim comments will surely be used by ISIS social media to demonize the United States and attract recruits.”
Clinton’s claim was rated as “false” by PolitiFact. If evidence of Trump’s comments being explicitly used to recruit extremist elements is not found at some point during the election, this could compound her difficulties with independents and even some Democrats who side with Bernie Sanders because of his principled approach.
She has had problems with honesty in the past and her difficulties with likability will be an obstacle going forward. A recent The Economist/YouGov poll conducted at the beginning of December shows a majority -- 53% -- of Americans think she is “not honest and trustworthy.” Ominously, only 54% of likely Democratic primary voters think she is “honest and trustworthy.”
Hillary will need to attack Trump in order to become our 45th president, but she should steer away from the hyperbolic strategies espoused by Republicans candidates.
Despite the fact that Trump’s comments may not be in ISIS recruiting videos just yet, a KKK leader has said that the Trump candidacy has helped the racist group attract more members.