Republican lawmakers continue to perpetuate unfounded allegations of injured Saudi student’s involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings

Republican lawmakers have continued to perpetuate inaccurate news reports of an injured Saudi Arabian student’s alleged involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings days after news outlets and law enforcement officials set the record straight.

The erroneous media reports prompted the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to issue a statement refuting allegations that any Saudi national was involved in the marathon attack.

“The Embassy stresses that there is no evidence, according to U.S. authorities, of involvement of any Saudi national in the bombings…Two Saudi students were among those injured in the explosions and are being treated at local hospitals in Boston,” according to the Embassy’s statement released on April 16. “The Saudi government condemns all forms of violence, offers its condolences to the families of the victims, and wishes a speedy recovery for all who were injured.”

In addition, numerous reputable news outlets, including the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, reported U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed that day that the injured Saudi man was questioned as a witness and not regarded as a suspect or even a person of interest and that the man even volunteered to have his apartment searched by authorities.

But despite the prompt corrections, conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill continued to repeat the false rumor of the Saudi victim’s alleged involvement in terrorism.

A notable example was the testy exchange between Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on April 18th:

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.):
I’m very concerned about this person of interest that was detained at the hospital in Boston following the marathon madness. He is, I believe, scheduled to be deported next week. And now, I understand he’s been cleared of any wrongdoing [or] involvement in Boston, but he’s being deported due to national security concerns. CBS says this: This gentleman is here on a student visa. He was at the scene, along with many other people when the blast happened. As everybody’s standing in shock, three Boston PD detectives see this guy moving quickly out of the crowd. As they’re watching him, he seems to be moving very deliberately, which could be a very natural thing after a bombing; they stopped him because he’s covered with blood. They end up taking him to the hospital. That’s straight off CBS.

And we’re asking average Americans to help ID and assist law enforcement in identifying who the bomber was – see something, say something.

And now we have someone who’s being deported due to national security concerns and I’m assuming that he’s got some sort of link to terror or he wouldn’t be deported. He was at the scene. He can possibly ID the bomber just like we’re asking every other American that was on the scene to provide your pictures, help us identify who may have been acting funny. Everybody – we’re asking that that was in Boston. And we’ve got this guy who was there. We know he was there. He was arrest or… was detained at the hospital, covered with blood. He was at the scene. And we’re going to…[Overlapping audio]

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
If I might – I am unaware of anyone who is being deported for national security concerns at all related to Boston. I don’t know where…[Overlapping audio]

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.):
Now that was related to Boston but he is being deported…

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
No, I – I – like I said, I – again, I don’t even think he was technically a person of interest or a suspect. That was a wash. And I’m unaware of any proceeding there. I will clarify that for you. But I think this is an example of why it is so important to let law enforcement do its job.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.):
I want them to do their job and that’s why I said wouldn’t you agree with me that it’s negligent for us American administration to deport someone who was reportedly at the scene of the bombing and we’re going to deport him not to be able to question him anymore? Is that not negligence?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
I’m not going to answer that question. It’s so full of misstatements and misapprehensions that it’s just not worthy of an answer.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.):
CBS reports that the gentleman was there. We did detain him at the hospital. He was covered with blood. We’ve cleared him of any wrongdoing but it has been reported he is being deported…

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
There’s been so much reported on this that’s been wrong I can’t even begin to tell you, Congressman. We will provide you with accurate information as it becomes available.

Napolitano’s statements appeared to have fallen on deaf ears because 5 days later Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) raised the topic again, repeating unfounded allegation that the injured Saudi student was linked to terrorism, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 23rd:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa):
Before the brothers became the focus of the investigation, authorities questioned a Saudi student who reportedly was on a terrorist watch list…With regard to the Saudi student, was he on a watch list and if so how did he obtain student visa?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
He was not on a watch list. What happened is this student was in the – really, when you back it out, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was never a subject. He was never even really a person of interest.

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