Rep. Peter King in Brooklyn on Jan. 4, 2015.

Rep. Peter King in Brooklyn on Jan. 4, 2015. Credit: John Asbury

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) has backed away from his initial defense of anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller, who staged the Muhammad cartoon-drawing contest Sunday in Garland, Texas, where a police officer shot and killed two gunmen who opened fire.

King called Friday, however, and denied he changed positions. King said he was talking about two different things, described below. 

Here is what King said in those interviews.

"She has a right to do what she did. Just because you have the right to do it doesn't mean you should do it," King said in an interview Wednesday on AM 970 that BuzzFeed first flagged.

"We want to insult and attack and ridicule Islamist terrorism, and that's fine," King added. "That makes sense, but to go after a religion in this way, you are just inviting trouble and there is no reason.

Its one thing to be courageous if you are doing it for a valid cause, but for the cause of doing a cartoon of Muhammad to me that's ... you are putting people's lives at risk for no good reason."

Those comments from Wednesday, however, sounded as if he had made a flip from what he said on Fox & Friends on Monday, Talking Points Memo pointed out.

We shouldn't be having a debate about whether or not that exhibition was provocative, King said then. "Being an American means you can be provocative. This is the First Amendment. We can't sacrifice our Constitution to Islamists or politically correct commentators."

When King called Friday, he said he was making two separate points.

King said that on Monday he was trying to defend the right to speak out and be provocative, and that the two men who drove up and started shooting had no justification for resorting to violence.

"You can never use violence to stop provocation. You have a right to provoke," King said. "Provocation is never an excuse for violence."

King said that on Wednesday he was trying to say that the cartoon contest was a needless provocation and not a tactic and a method to be used against Islamic terrorism. Geller, he said, "seems to provoke for the sake of provoking."

He explained, "There is no reason for attacking the Muslim religion. ... There is nothing we should have against Mohammad or the religion."

King appears to be walking a pretty fine line there, saying you have a right to provoke, but that you should be thoughtful about when and how you provoke.

On Wednesday, King took a shot at Geller, recalling she criticized his controversial hearings as Homeland Security Committee chairman on the responsibility of the American-Muslim community to combat Islamic terrorism.

Yeah, its provocative for no reason, King said, adding Geller "thought somehow that I was helping the Muslims or she said I didn't conduct tough enough hearings or whatever."

Geller criticized King's choice of witnesses for the 2011 hearings in her blog, saying he was "a wee bit over his haid (sic) and his hearing fills me with dread and sorrow at another lost opportunity."

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