Photograph by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.
The U.S. State Department and Turkey are none too pleased with Rick Perry's decision to declare during Monday's debate that the longtime NATO ally is run by "Islamic terrorists," a controversial statement that the Texan stood by Tuesday.
"Turkey is one of the oldest members of NATO and it's been a stalwart member of NATO and a strong ally to the United States," State spokesman Mark Toner said during a daily briefing Tuesday, adding that the administration "absolutely and fundamentally" disagrees with Perry's view on the issue.
As one would expect, Turkey's ambassador to the U.S. echoed the administration in blasting the Texan's remarks, saying that Perry's criticism was "misplaced" and "ill-advised."
"Needless to say, the Turkey described in the debate simply does not exist," Namik Tan said in a statement. "Turkey is a secular democracy that has for decades been an essential and trusted partner of the U.S."
Perry's comments came in response to a question about whether Turkey should still be in NATO. "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 yes—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," the presidential hopeful said. He stood by the remarks in a follow-up interview on Tuesday with CNN.
As the Los Angeles Times notes, Turkey has a strong alliance with the U.S., but hasn't yet been admitted to the E.U., partially because of questions about its human rights record. Despite this, the notion that Turkey's government is run by Islamic terrorists is considered fringe even on the right.
Even Fox News, which does a pretty good job providing a summary of the argument in favor of Perry's statement, poked some significant holes in the Texan's understanding of Turkey.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the cable news netwwork that Perry's remarks were "far-fetched." He added, "Are there problems with Turkey's democracy? Yes." But the idea that the country was run by Islamic terrorists is, in his opinion, "highly exaggerated."