Marco Rubio, Rush Limbaugh Blast Kenney

Overnight, Mayor Kenney has become a symbol to the right of political correctness run amok. Will that affect him at home?

Photo Credit | Matt Rourke, AP

A host of high-profile conservatives are criticizing Mayor Jim Kenney over comments he made after a Yeadon man allegedly told officials that he shot police officer Jesse Hartnett because he is loyal to ISIS.

At a news conference Friday, Kenney said, “This is a criminal with a stolen gun who tried to kill one of our officers. It has nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith.” Police Capt. James Clark told reporters at the same event that 30-year-old suspect Edward Archer confessed to the crime, saying, “I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic state, and that’s why I did what I did.” The suspect’s mother, meanwhile, said he had been “hearing voices.”

GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio blasted Kenney for his remarks at a town hall in South Carolina: “The police chief stands up, says, ‘This was the guy. We arrested him. And he said he did it in the name of ISIS.’ And then [Kenney] gets up and says, ‘This has nothing to do with Islam and radical Islam.’ This is ridiculous. This is absurd. This is a radical person, living in United States, who became radicalized. This is the new face of the war on terror, and it is dangerous and we need to confront it and defeat it.”

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh also slammed Kenney, saying, “So here you have the police commissioner quoting a suspect admitting why he did it, and the Looney Tune mayor comes in, ‘Nah, the suspect’s an idiot, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’ Doesn’t represent Islam in any way? Is this guy Islamic? The mayor Islamic? Then how would he know?” On Fox News, meanwhile, Judge Jeanine Pirro called Kenney’s quote “one of the most astounding asinine statements that I’ve heard since the last time I listened to a White House press conference.”

Kenney stood by his remarks when interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying, “My comments, of course, set off the Trumpers, the Trumpettes, whoever they are, into this lathered-up frenzy of anger and nastiness and meanness. My recommendation to other public officials is: don’t read Twitter. It is just bad, vicious and cruel.”

So in his first week in office, Kenney has become a symbol to some conservatives of political correctness run amok and the Democratic Party’s supposed refusal to face terrorism. Will that hurt Kenney at home, though?

Among most city voters, I think it’s unlikely. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1 in Philadelphia, and many progressives see Kenney’s statement as one that promotes unity and religious tolerance. It’s also worth noting that 70 percent of Democrats say Islam is not more likely than other religions to encourage violence, according to a recent Pew poll. (Comparatively, 68 percent of Republicans say Islam is more likely to encourage violence.)

That doesn’t mean Kenney’s words won’t impact him negatively whatsoever, though. The Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Kenney in the primary election. The question is: Will Kenney’s handling of the shooting change his relationship with union leaders at all?

FOP president John McNesby did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He did appear on Fox News Friday, however, where host Megyn Kelly asked him, “What did you make of the mayor today saying this is about gun violence and had nothing to with Islam, even though the suspect says openly, ‘Yes, it did?'”

McNesby didn’t criticize Kenney by name, but he also didn’t exactly rush to his defense, either. “Listen,” McNesby told Kelly, “the guy said, you know, he’s Islamic. Whether he took too many hits to the head, it doesn’t matter. He opened fire. And it starts at the top. You know, we have to be out there supporting law enforcement, not only here in Philadelphia but around the country. Whether it was Islam, whether he’s a Muslim, whether he followed ISIS, whatever it was, he is a terrorist.  He attacked one of our officers.”