Monday morning, Attorney General Loretta Lynch found herself needing to backtrack on her comments last week that seemed to imply that the Department of Justice will come after anyone speaking disparagingly to Muslims.
"Of course, we prosecute deeds and not words," Lynch said at a press conference.
Last week, the attorney general was speaking to a group called Muslim Advocates in Arlington, Virginia, days after the California attack. (Yes, she met with Muslims to console them, not the victims of an Islamic attack.) She complained that the First Amendment allows people to say hateful things and noted that many do so from the safety of their computer keyboard. It's something, she said, the DoJ would "take action" against, especially when that speech "edges towards violence, when we see the potential to lift...that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric."
This set off a firestorm from conservatives who saw her statement as a direct threat to free speech. One of the most vocal reactions came from former U.S. congressman and radio personality Joe Walsh who addressed Lynch directly for being more concerned about Muslim backlash after the attack. He spoke his mind about Muslims and then taunted her to prosecute him:
POLITICO quotes the attorney general at Monday's press conference:
"We always have a concern when we see the rhetoric rising against any particular group in America, that it might inspire others to violent action — and that violent action is what we would have to deal with," Lynch told journalists at Justice Department headquarters. She also urged Americans "not to give into fear" in the wake of the apparent terrorist attack in California. "So, [what] we're focused on, obviously, is protecting all of the people under the ambit of the Department of Justice."