Clinton Staffers Were Vexed That San Bernardino Attacker Had a Muslim Name

By Patrick Goodenough | October 17, 2016 | 4:33am EDT
Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik pass through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

( – The first reports identifying one of the San Bernardino terror attackers as a man with a Muslim name drew a vexed response from two senior staffers on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last December, a leaked email indicates.

“Damn,” was the curt response attributed to campaign spokeswoman Karen Finney, tagged to the top of an email forwarded to campaign Chairman John Podesta saying that according to a Twitter post from MSNBC’s Christopher Hayes, the attacker had been identified as “a U.S. citizen named Syed Farook.”

A reply from Podesta’s email address to Finney’s indicated that opinion was shared.


“Better if a guy named Sayeed Farouk was reporting that a guy named Christopher Hayes was the shooter,” came the response, apparently reflecting an aversion – common in the Obama administration – to anything that might link Muslims to terrorism.

The brief exchange was in one of the latest of thousands of Clinton campaign-related emails released by Wikileaks this month. The campaign and the administration have accused Russia of being behind the hack, in a bid to influence the presidential election.


On December 2 last year, Syed Farook, the U.S.-born son of Pakistani migrants, and his Pakistani-born wife, Tafsheen Malik, killed 14 people in an attack at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif.  Malik had entered the U.S. 17 months earlier on a fiancée visa.

The couple, who were evidently inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, fled the scene of the attack and were killed hours later in a shootout with police.

The immediate response from Clinton, campaigning at the time of the attack, was a Twitter posting saying, “I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now.”


A day later she commented that it was “becoming clearer that we are dealing with an act of terrorism.”

“We will learn more about what went on and who these people were and what their motivation were,” she said at a campaign event in New Hampshire. “But it is becoming clearer that we are dealing with an act of terrorism something that included bombs – luckily one that didn't go off – but pipe bombs that were found through a search of their home, lots of weapons, and just a deliberate, hateful murder of all those innocent people.”

Less than two weeks before the San Bernardino attack, Clinton in a speech responded to criticism about a reluctance to use the term “Islamic terrorism” by saying that doing so just plays into the hands of terrorists.

“The obsession in some quarters with a clash of civilization, or repeating the specific words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ isn’t just a distraction, it gives these criminals, these murderers, more standing than they deserve,” she told the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It actually plays into their hands by alienating partners we need by our side,” Clinton said.

Obama administration officials in general avoid using terms like “radical Islam” or “Islamic extremism” when discussing the threat, referring instead to “violent extremism.”


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