I’ve seen so many headlines to this effect and so many people on social media assert this as a fact, I believed it be true — until I actually went back and looked into the source of this claim, an interview Rudy Giuliani did with Fox News. Typically, the Hill headlined its article on the interview, “Giuliani: Trump asked me how to do a Muslim ban ‘legally.‘” Other news outlets, including The Post, ran similar headlines.
The Hill relates the story as well as anyone: “I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,’” Giuliani said on Fox News. “He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Everything turns on what the final “it” means. The headline writers all seem to have decided that “it” referred to “banning Muslims.” The other possible meaning is, “Show me the right way to “go about protecting Americans from foreign jihadists entering the United States.”
The latter explanation is consistent with what Giuliani said thereafter; the former is not:
“And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger,” Giuliani said.
“The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible.”
Giuliani reiterated that the ban is “not based on religion.”
“It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country,” he said.
So, no, Giuliani did not say that President Trump asked him how to do a Muslim ban legally, but how to exclude jihadists without banning Muslims generally. And in fact, both of Trump’s executive orders (temporarily) exclude people from countries whose Muslim populations make up less than 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population.
This is not a commentary on the wisdom of the executive orders, which I find to be both over-inclusive in excluding people who are no threat to the United States, and under-inclusive in that they fail to cover countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that are home to many radical Islamists. But the idea that Giuiliani “admitted” that the executive orders were “really” a Muslim ban relies on what is at best a tendentious interpretation of his interview.