Congressman frightens elementary school kids with talk of suicide bombers

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Matt Salmon, (R-AZ), is the Republican representative for Arizona's 5th congressional district. (Photo: CNN)

GILBERT, Ariz. — It started out as a visit from the local congressman to talk to elementary school kids about how a bill becomes a law, but after the conversation turned to school-age suicide bombers, Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon had to explain himself to upset parents.

Salmon frightened some second- and third-grade children at the San Tan Charter School in his district when his talk last Thursday about the upcoming vote on the Iran nuclear deal included comments about terrorist groups recruiting young suicide bombers.

“The congressman chose to give an example of the current situation in Iran, and made some inappropriate comments about ‘Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?'” Scott Campbell, a parent of one girl in the class, told KPHO.

The principal of the school, Dr. Kris Sippel, sent an email to the parents of the roughly 45 children who attended the session with Salmon, which he shared with CNN.

Sippel’s note explained that “the congressman shared a bill that will be going through the process with regards to nuclear warfare down to the terrorists trained and the age of the kiddos that are trained. This conversation lasted about three minutes, to which I interjected that we had time for a few questions in hopes to divert the conversation. At this point, the questions changed to a different topic; however, after a few questions, the topic again turned to ISIS and terrorists; at that point, (the teacher) did a great job and interrupted the Q&A to thank the congressman for coming to the classroom.”

Campbell told KPHO he was “shocked and saddened” after his daughter came home from school saying she didn’t know what suicide was and was scared by the congressman’s comments.

The principal suggested that parents of any kids who were “uneasy” about Salmon’s visit reach out to his office, and said that so far, three families have done so.

Salmon’s office said that the congressman’s aides met with some parents who expressed concerns about the presentation, which they maintain didn’t include anything that wasn’t already covered in the news media.

“The content o‎f those remarks wasn’t anything beyond what children could expect to see or hear on any timely TV or radio newscast. It was never Congressman Salmon’s intention to offend any parents present, so our office was happy to meet with them and discuss their concerns.” Salmon’s spokesman, Tristan Daedalus said.

The congressman also personally spoke with some parents by phone on Monday evening and Daedalus described the call as a “pleasant conversation.”

Salmon has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal and co-authored an editorial in the Arizona Republic with other House GOP members last month calling it a “dangerous mistake.”

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