Reporter: Kevin Keen
Web Producer: Rikki Mitchell
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV/AP) - Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva is slamming his Republican rival for saying that all immigrants from Middle Eastern nations plan to harm the U.S.
Gabriela Saucedo Mercer said in an interview with an online news site last year that harming the U.S. is the "only goal in life" for middle-eastern immigrants, so "why do we want them here, legally or illegally."
The comments pointed out by Grijalva were taken out of context, Saucedo Mercer spokeswoman Janice Rimer said Wednesday. Saucedo Mercer told The Arizona Daily Star that Grijalva must be scared of losing in November's general election to be attacking her.
Late Thursday, KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen spoke to Saucedo Mercer, who offered a clarification.
“Actually, the people that I was referring to in that interview are terrorists who want to harm this country,” she said over the phone. “Let me tell you what I said and I still say it: the problem with immigration is that people are coming into this country legally and illegally who intend to do us harm.”
Grijalva's campaign distributed a news release pointing out her comments Tuesday as voters were casting ballots in the primary election. Grijalva handily won his party's primary for Arizona's 3rd Congressional District that night, and Mercer also won easily.
The district is viewed as strongly Democratic, and a Republican win is considered unlikely.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Grijalva said Saucedo Mercer must be held accountable for her remarks and defended distributing them.
"We had to allow people to see that (tape) so they could begin to distinguish between that kind of extremist rhetoric and the fact that we have a difference in issues that people must evaluate," he said. "She said that. It was not spliced. We didn't take it out of context. The whole interview is there for anyone to watch.
"Those are not my (words), we didn't fabricate them or put them in her mouth, it came out of her own month, and they'll be others," he said.
Mohyeddin Abdulaziz represents the Tucson chapter of the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee. He told KGUN9 News Saucedo Mercer’s statement is factually wrong and cowardly.
“It's cowardly because in the state of discussing the issues that our people, our community and our nation face like education, health, jobs, etc.,” Abdulaziz said, “she chose to talk about--to use the politics of hate and xenophobia and fear.”
Saucedo Mercer is a tea party favorite who is making her first foray into politics. In a statement, her campaign said Grijalva used snippets of video interviews with Gabriela Saucedo Mercer to try and "weave a deceptive anti-Middle Eastern message with particular attention placed on a mere fragment of footage used selectively to construct a false narrative."
In the videotaped interview with the online news site Western Free Press, Saucedo Mercer is asked about concerns some people have raised about illegal immigrants the U.S. Border Patrol classifies as "other than Mexicans," who may be from countries antagonistic toward the U.S. The interview was posted on the group's website in June 2011 and is available at http://westernfreepress.com .
Her full response to the question:
"Of course, its, you think about these 'other than Mexicans.' Just last year, I don't have the numbers, I remember taking notes, but if I remember correctly it was 25,000 that they were able to apprehend, 'other than Mexicans.' That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners. If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them they look Mexican, they look like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, brown hair, brown eyes, and they mix, they mix in. And those people, their only goal in life is to, to cause harm to the United States. So why do we want them here, either legally or illegally?"
Grijalva said he has many policy differences with his GOP rival and the campaign will focus on those differences. But he also said there will be a personal side to the campaign.
"The allegations, the statements that she's made publicly about me being a Marxist and a Communist and anti-American, that's the other level on which unfortunately this campaign is going to be waged," Grijalva said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)