Saban Retracts Call to Step Up Scrutiny of U.S. Muslims: 'I Misspoke'

Israeli-American media mogul says he regrets making religious distinction but stands by assertion that civil liberties should be suspended in face of security threats.

Haim Saban.
Alon Ron

Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban has retracted his comment that the U.S. should step up scrutiny of Muslims following last Friday's deadly wave of terrorist attacks in Paris.

“I misspoke,” Saban told L.A.-based entertainment website The Wrap. "I believe that all refugees coming from Syria — a war-torn country that ISIS calls home — regardless of religion require additional scrutiny before entering the United States."

“At this moment in time, with hundreds killed in Paris and thousands more around the world, freedom as we know it is under existential threat,” he added.

In an interview published a day earlier, Saban told The Wrap that he isn't "suggesting we put Muslims through some kind of torture room to get them to admit they are or they're not terrorists. But I am saying we should have more scrutiny."

In his follow-up statement on Thursday, Saban expressed "regret" over "making a religious distinction as opposed to a geographical one: it’s about scrutinizing every single individual coming from a country with ISIS strongholds.”

In the original interview, Saban suggested that some civil liberties may need to be suspended in the face of security threats. "You want to be free and dead? I'd rather be not free and alive," he said. 

He seemed to stand by the latter comments in his follow-up statement, stating that he is in favor of the government taking “additional measures” to ensure the safety of Americans.

“While in contradiction to our country’s principles in time of peace, I’m comfortable with the government taking additional measures, including increased surveillance of individuals they deem suspicious," he was quoted as saying.

"Our first priority is to protect the lives of our citizens and no liberty is more valuable than our safety.” 

Saban's entertainment and media ventures have included Power Rangers, the Fox Family Channel and the U.S.-based Spanish-language Univision network, as well as Israel's Partner Communications cellular firm. "Many members of the Hollywood community are very liberal and they value their civil liberties more than they value life. I disagree with that," Saban told The Wrap in the original interview.