joe-lhota-speakingJoe Lhota attacks the Associated Press while defending the controversial program in a BuzzFeed interview.

Andrew Kaczynski, BuzzFeed

New York City Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota defended the NYPD’s broad surveillance of Muslims and attacked the Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting during a wide-ranging interview with BuzzFeed Tuesday.

Lhota dismissed the AP’s reporting as based on “supposition” and “missing a big point.” Lhota also denied, despite reports based on documents and sources, that the NYPD had ever spied on a Muslim establishment without following a target.

“When you look at the facts they don’t willy-nilly go there because of the people there,” Lhota said. “I have yet to see any place where they have gone where there was not at least one, if not two people that they were focused on that brought them to that mosque. The mosque didn’t come first.”

The AP reported in August that the NYPD secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, using the designation to allow informants to record sermons and spy on imams. Many times, sermons were recorded without evidence of any crimes, according to the report. The labeling of mosques as terrorist organizations meant anyone attending services at mosque could be treated as potential subject for investigation and surveillance.

“It’s almost like a chicken-and-egg question,” Lhota said. “You can’t then say, well they’re talking to everyone in a restaurant. Well what brought them to the restaurant? It was a target and they’re allowed to focus on targets. And that’s what they’re doing and, I think, ya know, there’s no other evidence to that. The interpretation of two reporters with a lot of unsubstantiated claims doesn’t work for me. It really doesn’t. (Read more)

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