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GOP presidential candidate Tancredo admits he's a 'controversial figure'
Ron Brynaert
Published: Monday April 2, 2007
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Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), a "dark horse" candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination admitted in an interview that he is a "controversial figure" who is sometimes prone to saying "outrageous things."

Last November, Esquire Magazine wrote, "Tancredo is Tancrazy. Made his name calling for mass deportations of illegal immigrants. Recently was the featured speaker at a meeting of the League of the South, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a 'neo-Confederate hate group.' In a rare moment of clarity, he called his own suggestion that he run for president 'idiotic.'"

On this weekend's All Things Considered, NPR's Debbie Elliott referred to the "Tancrazy" moniker and asked the Congressman if he thought voters would view him as "presidential material."

"You are known for speaking your mind in a way that some might consider outrageous," Elliott said to Tancredo. "You've compared Miami to a third world country. At one point, you suggested the U.S. should bomb Mecca in response to terrorist attacks. You were even part of a group of Colorado lawmakers earlier in your career who call themselves the 'Crazies.' Do you think that voters will be able to look at you as presidential material?"

Tancredo objected, "Well, first of all, when you say, 'called ourselves the "crazies,"' the -- actually the press dubbed us that...because we were a group of people -- very conservative -- and we were trying our best to reduce taxes in that particular case, a crazy idea at the time in Colorado; however, we were successful in a number of ways in doing so."

"And it didn't seem to hurt my possibilities, even at the time," Tancredo pointed out. "I mean, I was re-elected three times. I went on to win five elections for Congress in Colorado. People there know me and I think understand exactly what it is I'm trying to accomplish."

But Tancredo admitted he could sometimes be "outrageous" or "controversial."

"And, yes, I say some outrageous things," Tancredo said. "It's probably true. And I say -- and I am a controversial figure. But, you know, just saying outrageous things doesn't get you anywhere, and it's certainly not my purpose. My purpose is to say exactly what I feel and what I think about issues. And it's good to have a debate. It's healthy for the country to have a debate on these subjects, I think."

On Monday, Tancredo officially announced his candidacy "on a conservative Des Moines-area radio show," the Associated Press reports.

"The political elite in Washington have chosen to ignore this phenomenon," Tancredo said.

Audio of Tancredo's interview can be heard at this link.

Transcript of NPR interview:

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MS. ELLIOTT: And now to the U.S. presidential race. The Republican field is growing. Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson told ABC's "This Week" he's running. He called himself "the reliable conservative."

Another dark horse who comes with conservative credentials, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo is expected to formally announce his candidacy tomorrow. Congressman Tancredo gained national prominence with his fierce opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens. We caught up with him this morning on the campaign trail in Waterloo, Iowa.

MS. ELLIOTT: What would you do?

REP. TANCREDO: Well, I would -- the policy that I suggest or that I put forward is one that calls disengagement without withdrawal. We need to disengage; we cannot leave the country, however. We --

MS. ELLIOTT: How do you disengage without leaving the country? I don't understand.

REP. TANCREDO: Oh, you can do that. You can do that. The -- and of course it relies heavily upon the Iraqi government being able to control the country. But we have to be in a position to respond to whatever might happen there that threatens our interests.

MS. ELLIOTT: I would like to ask you a little bit about -- I'm going to call it the "Tancrazy" -- I think that's what Esquire called you one time.

REP. TANCREDO: Oh, yeah.

MS. ELLIOTT: You are known for speaking your mind in a way that some might consider outrageous. You've compared Miami to a third world country. At one point, you suggested the U.S. should bomb Mecca in response to terrorist attacks. You were even part of a group of Colorado lawmakers earlier in your career who call themselves the "Crazies." Do you think that voters will be able to look at you as presidential material?

REP. TANCREDO: Well, first of all, when you say, "called ourselves the 'crazies,'" the -- actually the press dubbed us that -- (laughs) --

MS. ELLIOTT: Oh, okay.

REP. TANCREDO: -- because we were a group of people -- very conservative -- and we were trying our best to reduce taxes in that particular case, a crazy idea at the time in Colorado; however, we were successful in a number of ways in doing so. And it didn't seem to hurt my possibilities, even at the time. I mean, I was re-elected three times. I went on to win five elections for Congress in Colorado. People there know me and I think understand exactly what it is I'm trying to accomplish.

And, yes, I say some outrageous things. It's probably true. And I say -- and I am controversial figure. But, you know, just saying outrageous things doesn't get you anywhere, and it's certainly not my purpose. My purpose is to say exactly what I feel and what I think about issues. And it's good to have a debate. It's healthy for the country to have a debate on these subjects, I think.

MS. ELLIOTT: Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, expected to formally announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination tomorrow. Thank you for talking with us.

REP. TANCREDO: Thank you very much.

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