The State Department “absolutely and fundamentally” disagrees with Gov. Rick Perry’s statement in last night’s debate that Turkey is ruled “by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.” Responding to a question from host Bret Baier asking if Turkey should continue to be a member of NATO, Perry also questioned the country’s membership in the alliance.
“When you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists," Perry said, "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."
While the State Department generally does not get into the substance of campaign politics, even when candidates weigh in on foreign policy, spokesman Mark Toner answered reporters’ questions on Perry’s comment. Toner reaffirmed the U.S.’s close relationship with Turkey and called the country a “stalwart ally” in NATO.
“We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion," Toner said. "It [Turkey] continues to play a very positive and constructive role in the region. And it is often cited as an example of a so-called Islamic democracy in action."
The Turks themselves had harsh words for Perry. In a scathing statement, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States expressed his disappointment and concern over Perry’s comments, calling them “misplaced” and “ill-advised.” The ambassador also said Turkey receives no significant foreign aid from the U.S.
“The Turkey described in the debate simply does not exist," Ambassador Namik Tan said. "Turkey is a secular democracy that has for decades been an essential and trusted partner of the U.S. Our bilateral relations are based on the common values of democracy and respect for human rights, rule of law, and free-market economy."
Today, Perry did not back down, per NBC's Carrie Dann.
“I stand by my statement," he said. "You need to be putting protections in place for your citizens if you’re seeing those types of attacks against, particularly, well, particularly females."