Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Thursday criticized President Barack Obama's State of the Union plea for American citizens and politicians to treat Muslims fairly. Speaking at the sixth Republican presidential debate, Huckabee used recently released FBI statistics about 2014 hate crimes in the United States to back up his argument that Obama should be condemning anti-Semitic comments instead of defending Muslims.
While responding to a debate moderator's question about the U.S. visa waiver program, which was criticized after recent mass shootings for allowing tourists to enter the country unchecked, Huckabee alleged that Obama was prioritizing Islam over Americans' safety. He went on to denounce Obama's Tuesday night statement encouraging people to have open minds about diversity.
"[When Obama] makes comments like he did the other night, that we have to be so careful because we don't want to offend Muslims, he needs to read his own FBI crime stats from last year," Huckabee said. "Maybe what the president should have talked about the other night is how we ought to be more careful in the anti-Semitic comments that are going toward American Jews than toward Muslims, because by three times as many, they're being targeted for religious hate crimes."
The FBI found law enforcement agencies reported about 5,500 hate crime incidents during 2014. About 1,100 of them were motivated by religious bias. Huckabee said 58 percent were against Jewish people, while 16 percent were anti-Islamic.
The comment Huckabee referred to came during Obama's Tuesday State of the Union address. The president said that "we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," and he mentioned politicians insulting Muslims and mosques being vandalized specifically. The line was directed at the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., which critics say has been encouraged by GOP front-runner Donald Trump. In December, Trump suggested the nation should halt all Muslim immigration for a time.
— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) January 14, 2016
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) January 14, 2016
Huckabee joined former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for the undercard GOP debate, which started at 6 p.m. EST Thursday at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in South Carolina. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was also invited to the so-called "JV" debate, but he refused to participate, complaining that he should have been with the major candidates.
Thursday was Huckabee's second time not making the main lineup. He was relegated to the kid's table in December, as well, due to his low poll numbers. As of Thursday afternoon, Huckabee was polling at about 2.3 percent, just behind Fiorina and Paul.
Huckabee said last month he didn't mind not qualifying for the big leagues because it gave him more time to answer questions, but he railed against the system this week. "The whole process by which people are selected is utterly absurd," Newsmax reported Huckabee said Wednesday. "The networks and the RNC have manipulated this process and in many ways, when they lament who's leading the polls, well, they created this monster. It's very unfortunate."