Oregon State Sen. Jeff Kruse talked to Eugene Weekly about his thoughts on the press, Islamic terrorism and the Trump administration. Sen. Kruse is a Republican from Roseburg. A copy of his newsletter that prompted our interview can be found here.
Eugene Weekly: What are your thoughts on the mainstream media?
Jeff Kruse: There is no such thing as unbiased because everybody’s got a built in bias. If you don’t have a bias, you aren’t thinking. I do think, for example, I think if you switch back and forth between Fox and CNN, you’re wondering if they’re both at the same place talking about the same thing. I do think that a lot of the mainstream media do tend to lean relatively far to the left on a lot of issues. I see that even here. Here’s a perfect example of something that just happened. There was an article in Forbes Magazine last week talking about all of the money that our governor and our attorney general received in campaign donations from people who have contracts with state government. And contracts in total somewhere worth several hundred million dollars, so we read about that in Forbes Magazine you would think that would be something that we would have read about in the Oregonian. It’s that sort of thing, there are some stories that seem to get covered and some that don’t, and quite honestly there is kind of a spin on it. Often times what I see on TV and read in newspapers about what goes on in this building, and I’m wondering how they could get the interpretations they do about what is being talked about here in the building. I do think that there is a bias.
EW: What do you think a solution to that would be?
JK: I don’t know. I really don’t. There are first amendment rights so you’re entitled, you know anybody to say anything they want. I think from my perspective a lot of the stuff I see on TV and I read in papers anymore I basically take with a grain of salt, and I’m assuming it’s not hard news. Like on radio the networks usually have at the top of the hour a five or seven-minute thing before it gets to the regular programing, and they put all these human-interest things out there. And I also think that part of it is the news cycle has become twenty-four seven, and so it gives them lots of opportunity to go anywhere they want. Now when I was a kid, which was a long time ago, on television network news was 15 minutes. The entire news hour was a half hour, and what I got in Roseburg at that point in time was the “Huntley-Brinkley Report” and basically all they did was focus on the hard news what was going on in Washington DC. They didn’t go into all these human-interest things. And I know there’s probably a reason for it. We hear a story about some kid in little rock Arkansas, ok what does that have to do with national news? It doesn’t. It kind of gins up emotional reactions and news reporting isn’t what it used to be when, in my opinion, when we were getting our news from people like Walter Cronkite.
EW: I’d like to ask you more about the media and how they report on things. You said in your newsletter, that special interest groups and many politicians are perfect example of misinformation and lies being waged against this administration. And then you talk a little bit about travel ban, or restriction, as you call it. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you saw that order carried out?
JK: Basically, what it was was a temporary ban from people coming from seven specific countries from coming in to the United States until we had a better vetting process and that was all it was, it wasn’t an attack on Muslims. Muslims weren’t even addressed in the executive order, it was just specific to people from specific countries. And countries that quite honestly have historic ties to terrorism. And so what we heard about in the media was it was an attack on Muslims. Quite honestly I would suggest that the majority of the terrorists are Muslim. But that’s not what it was. What was really interesting is because Obama did something similar to folks from Iraq for a period of time, and Jimmy Carter did something similar to citizens from Iran for a period of time. In neither one of those cases did the media have a cow over it, but because Trump did it, and they don’t seem to like Trump, it became a news item. Whereas when Obama did it nobody said a word about it.
EW: And you said you would feel safe saying that the majority of terrorist attacks have been committed by Muslims?
JK: Obviously there are some incidents of right wing folks and different things like that, but we know for example and there’s evidence to show, there are terrorist training camps within the United States, they have attacked the United States, you know it’s not like it’s an everyday thing. Somebody said that radical Islam only make up 1 percent of the population. Well if you look at the number of people who are Islamic in the world that would be about 1.5 million people. Obviously that’s something we need to be concerned about. Just having a vetting process, which we should do with all people coming into this country. They should have appropriate papers, and we should know what it is they are doing here and how long they want to stay. I think that’s reasonable. The way we allow people in this country is a lot loser than a lot of countries do. I don’t think the threat of Islamic terrorism is over and to take a step back to make sure that we have an appropriate vetting process I don’t think is that unreasonable of an approach.
EW: You think that we have lose regulations for getting in even though it takes 18-24 months prior to this order if you’re from Syria to get in? I hear that a lot from people saying we’re just trying to make sure there’s a better vetting process in place and to me 18 to 24 months seems like a pretty long time.
JK: That's the wait period, but I would suggest that under the Obama administration, the wait time was shortened significantly.
EW: It was shortened to the 18 months?
Kruse: No I think it was shorter than that. But just because you've had to wait, x amount of time before you're allowed to come in that doesn't necessarily mean that our officials are doing their due diligence to make sure that only the appropriate people are coming in, Is this the biggest item on the agenda? Probably not. I do believe that the president is relooking at the policy as we speak. And I don't think..I just think that this is not a safe world and we need to be careful who we are allowing into our country.
EW: When you said, and this is in the same letter, “What I absolutely shameful in this fact, we have a lot of politicians in this state to be encouraging this lawless behavior.” Were you talking about the women’s march?
JK: No, I'm talking about the protests they had at the Portland airport on the immigration order and we had elected officials in the state of Oregon who went there and encouraged people to continue protesting and basically to ignore the law. The women's march is what it was and I understand that but by the same token you can protest but when the protest is impeding other people from going about their business you're stepping over the line. And at the Portland airport, they were stepping over the line because they were impeding people. Your rights end where my rights begin. I've got a plane to catch and you're protest makes me miss my plane you're violating my rights because I have a right to be on that plane.
EW: Is there anything else you’d like to add about freedom of the press or anything like that?
JK: At this point it is appeared to me that the main stream media has been very anti-Trump and its going to be interesting to see how that relationship develops over the next period of time. Maybe they develop a relationship, I don't know. I’m hoping to see what I think is more fairness in the way a lot of the things are covered. You know Trump hasn't been president that long — he doesn't even have all of his cabinet in place. How you can be attacking him for things that he hasn't done yet or just because of what you think he's going to do I think is somewhat inappropriate, but we'll see what will happens in the next six months.
EW: Did you see the press conference that was held last week that was about 70 minutes or so? [The press conference held on Feb. 16].
JK: No, I didn't. My son saw it — I was busy here — and he said that he thought it was pretty good, he answered all the questions and pretty much was direct in response to everybody, so I'll take his word on that.