(This post has been updated.)
A U.S. congressman’s visit to a local elementary school late last week, likely intended to be an innocuous chat about government in the manner of Schoolhouse Rock, turned nightmare-inducing for the children.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) was explaining to a room of second and third graders about the veto process and was using the current Iran nuclear deal debate as an example. (Pretty heavy for this demographic, no?)
He asked the children if they knew what a nuclear weapon was. One disturbed father, Scott Campbell, told a local Arizona CBS affiliate that Salmon then asked, “Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?”
Also kids, there are monsters under your bed and the bogeyman is real.
We reached the principal of San Tan Charter School, Kristofer Sippel, who confirmed what happened and shared with the Loop a note he sent to families of the 45 students in attendance:
Yesterday Congressman Matt Salmon visited your kiddos’ classroom where they discussed the process they had learned about how a bill becomes a law. During this conversation, the Congressman shared a bill that will be going through the process with regards to nuclear warfare down to the terrorist trained and the age of the kiddos that are trained. This conversation lasted about three minutes to which I interjected that we had time for a few questions in hops to divert the conversation. At this point, the questions changed to a different topic; however, after a few questions the topic again turned to ISIS and terrorists; at that point, Ms. Kisler did a great job and interrupted the Q & A to thank the Congressman for coming to the classroom.
Some of your kiddos may have come home yesterday to share their experience with you; this may have left you uneasy, if your family was troubled with this discussion, I encourage you to please reach out to the Congressman’s office to discuss this with him and/or his staff.
Salmon’s spokesman Tristan Daedalus told us in an e-mail that members of his staff met with some of the concerned parents on Monday, though defended his boss in a statement.
“The content of those remarks wasn’t anything beyond what children could expect to see or hear on any timely TV or radio newscast,” Daedalus said. “It was never Congressman Salmon’s intention to offend any parents present, so our office was happy to meet with them and discuss their concerns.”
Salmon also called some of the parents, including Campbell.
“After the meeting, Rep. Salmon called me personally to apologize to my family,” Campbell told the Loop in an e-mail. “In today’s political climate that was a genuine and welcome gesture. I might not agree with his opinions on policy and what he did in this specific incident was wrong, but it did restore some of my faith in our democracy. People must speak truth to power when they are in the wrong and I have regained a lot of respect for him today.”
The chilling rhetoric in front of young kids reminded us of an incident earlier this year when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — coincidentally a pal of Salmon’s — said the “world is on fire” during a presidential campaign event, prompting a six-year-old in the crowd to pipe up, “The world is on fire?”
“Yes, the world is on fire,” Cruz told her. “Your world is on fire.”
But that parent was a big Cruz fan, and assured her daughter that Cruz was the hero who would put the fire out.
Well, Salmon, to his credit, showed he can put fires out too …