Rick Perry took a big bite out of Bret Baier's bait during Monday night's South Carolina debate when he claimed that Turkey was run by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.
The remark, which came as a response to the moderator's question of whether Turkey should stay in NATO, kicked up a mass furor in Turkey, where most people were asleep at the time.
Obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then ... not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO but it's time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it, Perry said, adding that Turkey moved far away from the country it once was in the 1970s, when he was stationed there as an Air Force pilot.
Some members of the Turkish press managed to brush the statement off in a sentence. Hurriyet Daily News columnist Mustafa Akyol tweeted: Rick Perry: What an idiot
The Turkish Foreign Ministry's statement was a little more scathing: It is expected of people aiming for a responsible position like the United States presidency to know more about the world and to be careful about what they say, the statement read.
Turkey became a member of NATO when the governor was 2 years old and has been among the front line countries in the fight against terrorism, Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal noted.
The Turkish ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, took the opportunity to reaffirm Turkey's commitment to democracy. Turkey is a secular democracy that has for decades been an essential and trusted partner of the U.S. Our bilateral relations are based on the common values of democracy and respect for human rights, rule of law, and free market economy.
Whether in the fight against terrorism or violent extremism, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or against the proliferation of WMD, Tan emphasized that Turkey and the United States stood side by side to tackle the many common threats and challenges of the current time.
Turkish-Americans residing in the United States were also struck by the comment. Sila Asa, a member of the Turkish Cultural Center in New York City, asked if Perry even knew where Turkey was located.
It's hard enough to put up with the ignorance of Americans walking the streets who think all Muslims are terrorists, Asa told the International Business Times. But this guy is up to be the president of the country and he turns up at a debate without even doing basic homework.
Perry wrapped up his comment on Turkey with another profundity that Turkey should not receive foreign aid. Fact check: Apart from four Predator drones that were recently deployed by the United States to assist the country in its fight against Kurdish rebels, Turkey has not received aid from the United States.
Perry's campaign has responded to the widespread criticism following the remarks. The governor was responding to the questioner's references to violence against women and to association with Hamas, I think both of which are things that many people do associate as he said with Islamic terrorists. Perry's foreign policy adviser, Victoria Coates, told reporters after the debate that the governor would welcome the opportunity to work with Turkey on regional issues like Syria and Iraq in the future.
Top tweets surrounding the controversial remarks:
AliAbunimah Ali Abunimah
Can you imagine the harm Rick Perry does to US trade and jobs, let alone reputation, by attacking Turkey and Muslims in general?
IvanCNN Ivan Watson
CNN's Truth Squad:facts aren't on candidate Rick Perry's side, when he claims #Turkey is ruled by Islamic terrorists
telestialstate Telestial State
Rick Perry is asked about Turkey. He responds that he likes dark meat. #scdebate
oahismyname Noah S
There is no way Rick Perry knows Turkey is a country. He totally thought it was a question about his hunting trips.
paulgamboa Paul Gamboa
What are the chances that Rick Perry thinks he's talking about an actual Turkey instead of the country. I'd say about 90% #scdebate