On Tuesday, Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) told The Root that he received a death threat on Dec. 7, the same day reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate Donald Trump announced that Muslims should be barred from entering the U.S. The threat against Carson was referred to the U.S. Capitol Police.
Earlier this week, Trump released a statement, the first sentence of which called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
"People think this is just talking—this is actually dangerous," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told The Root as he walked through the Capitol after voting on the House floor.
The only two members of Congress of the Muslim faith, Ellison, 52, and Carson, 41, have recently spent a lot of time fielding questions on various aspects of the bigotry of Trump and others. The two have become perhaps the only two members of Congress who constantly have to be referenced by their faith rather than by whom they represent or the issues they champion.
Speaking further on Trump's latest comments, Carson told The Root, "I feel like Mr. Trump's comments were asinine and unbecoming of anyone seeking the highest office of the land. The commander in chief has to be someone who has a global vision and an understanding that America is a pluralistic society and that we're made up of different races, different religions and different cultures."
Carson is a former law-enforcement officer who is also a member of the House intelligence committee. Ellison is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and recently endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president.
Like many others in politics who have been asked about Trump's endless cavalcade of controversial statements, Ellison was resolute regarding yet another round of news-cycle-dominating inquiries. Though he said he's not aware of any death threats directed at him during this latest flap, he has received positive support from constituents.
"Donald Trump has prompted a couple of people calling me and saying, 'I'm sorry about that jerk,' " Ellison said.
Trump's policy declaration follows a steady stream of bigotry by others, including comments made by fellow White House contender Ben Carson, who said that he wouldn't support a Muslim running for president, and Jerry Falwell Jr., who told students at a convocation on Dec. 4, "If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them."
Falwell was referring to the Dec. 2 killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The mass shooting was one of many in the U.S. this year, including the murders of nine African Americans by Dylann Roof during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, and the murders of three people at a Planned Parenthood on Nov. 27 in Colorado Springs, Colo., by Robert Dear.
As Trump ramps up negative attacks directed toward members of the Muslim faith, just as he did with Mexican immigrants early in his campaign, he has mainstreamed the discourse of bigotry in a way not seen since the candidacy of former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke in 1991, who ran for governor of Louisiana.
On Tuesday, Trump was asked twice on national television if he planned to place Muslims in internment camps if he became president. That the question was even asked of a Republican contender for the White House is making many in the GOP nervous.
Bigotry against members of the Muslim faith is not new. In 2006, now-former Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) attacked Ellison's faith upon his election to the House in a constituent newsletter, asserting that the election of a Muslim to Congress was a threat to the nation's values.
When asked about Trump last month, Ellison stated, "It's classic demagoguery. He's going to get somebody hurt. I don't think he cares much. It should be the kind of behavior that is roundly denounced. The thing that scares me is that the more he says outrageous, inflammatory things, seems like it doesn't seem to cost him in terms of support, which makes me a little bit worried about the people who support him."
On Nov. 23, Ellison said, "He’s whipping up hatred to scapegoat a minority religious group, which has some very dangerous historic precedents," Days before, on Nov. 21, Mercutio Southall Jr., a Black Lives Matter protester, had been punched and kicked on video at a Trump rally in Alabama.
On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in a rare comment about the presidential race, spoke strongly against Trump and referred indirectly to Ellison and Carson: "Not only are there many Muslims serving in our armed forces, dying for this country; there are Muslims serving right here in the House working every day to uphold and defend the Constitution."
The Pentagon announced today that there are more than 5,890 Muslims serving in the military.
Although many appear to be well-aware that Trump's views are at best unconstitutional and at worst bigoted and dangerous, many also appear to be oblivious of the fact that Trump's pronouncements continue to control the political conversation less than two months before the first presidential contest of the 2016 campaign. The Iowa caucus is Feb. 1.
The nation will learn exactly how much support Trump has during the first week in February.