If you went to bed Monday night before the end of the first round of Republican National Convention festivities, you'll need to catch up quick before you head to the watercooler. In addition to plagiarism allegations and birther claims, the RNC sparked concern when Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told attendees that members of the Islamic State group were in every state in the country.
She was right — kind of.
Ernst made the statement Monday in Cleveland as she criticized Democrats like President Barack Obama and likely nominee Hillary Clinton for their stances on terror, the Hill reported. She brought up a 2014 interview in which Obama compared ISIS to a junior varsity basketball team, and then she addressed the extremists' rapid global growth.
"They represent a threat that is not limited to the Middle East, and which is spreading rapidly," Ernst said. "In fact, according to the FBI, ISIS is present in all 50 states. Think about it for a moment. Terrorists from ISIS are in every one of our 50 states. They will use whatever weapons they have: guns, trucks, knives, poisons and bombs to kill innocent people."
Social media instantly lit up with messages calling Ernst, once considered a potential vice presidential pick for Trump, a fear monger. However, her ISIS claim wasn't completely wrong — just exaggerated, Politico reported.
Ernst seemed to be referencing a speech by FBI director James Comey in which he said the agency was investigating "people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states." He added that ISIS' innate ability to recruit vulnerable young people on the internet, often sending them gifts and preying on their desire to be taken seriously, has become an issue because their mission "resonates with troubled souls."
"Those people exist in every state," Comey said at a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, noting that Alaska was the last to join the group. "This isn't a New York phenomenon or a Washington phenomenon. This is all 50 states and in ways that are very hard to see."
Last year, in one month alone, about 15 people were charged with supporting ISIS in states from California to New Jersey to Mississippi, the Los Angeles Times reported. A map from the Homeland Security committee showed ISIS-linked arrests in states like Virginia, North Carolina and Washington.
However, Politico pointed out that people being investigated for radicalization does not mean they are necessarily from ISIS, as Ernst suggested.