The debate raged throughout the duration of former President Barack Obama's administration over the level of threat that ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups posed to the U.S. mainland.
In March 2016, Obama — who famously misjudged the “JV team” during the early days of ISIS — declared during a news conference in Argentina that the terrorist organization was “not an existential threat” to America.
Whether ISIS is an existential threat to the U.S. or not, Fox News host Tucker Carlson believes one U.S.-born street gang is “a far greater threat to your life” — the notorious MS-13.
Formed on the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s, the Mara Salvatrucha gang — comprised largely of nationals from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras — now operates in Latin America, Mexico, and Canada, along with other countries abroad.
Carlson said Thursday that while ISIS and its followers are responsible for dozens of deaths in the U.S. over the last several years, it's “nothing” compared to the atrocities MS-13 has committed. Via a Breitbart News transcript on his comments:
"It's fair to say that ISIS is [...] indeed awful. Combine the Orlando, San Bernardino, and Chattanooga terror attacks, and the group is responsible for at least 68 deaths here in the U.S. over just the past three years, and that is bad.
On the other hand, it’s nothing compared to MS-13. That organization, a mostly immigrant street gang, is a far greater threat to your life than ISIS is — it's the numbers."
Carlson said while the MS-13 body count may be less than that of ISIS, MS-13's brutality lies in other factors:
But killing is not the end of the problem with MS-13. Its members have been caught running child prostitution rings, they've been contacted by Mexican drug cartels and paid to run torture operations, and, of course, they engage in the usual extortion, drug trafficking and human smuggling."
Also, he said, part of the MS-13 threat is the group's sheer number of members and supporters:
"But unlike ISIS, MS-13 makes it hard to live in certain neighborhoods here in this country. Also unlike ISIS, there are a lot of them. ISIS may have significant passive support in the U.S., and a lot of us suspect it does, but true active ISIS members — pretty small, maybe a few hundred at most.
MS-13, by contrast, has at least 6,000 members — according to the government — in this country. And they’re supported by more than 30,000 abroad. Yes, abroad."
As The Washington Times noted, Carlson asked rhetorically if President Donald Trump's administration is prepared to go after MS-13 with the same voracity as it has recently targeted ISIS:
“The administration is using a lot of firepower to defeat insurgents in the Middle East right now, and good for them. But what about the insurgency right down the road from you here in America?”
Trump adamantly vowed throughout the presidential campaign to focus on the use of illegal drugs and drug-related violence. In February, as The Daily Caller reported, he signed an executive order targeting drug cartels and street gangs such as MS-13.