Has General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s pick to be National Security Adviser, compared Islam to cancer? Today, CNN published a story about a speech Flynn gave back in August in which he compared “Islamism” to cancer. From CNN:

Donald Trump’s pick to be national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, called Islamism a “vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people” that has to be “excised” during an August speech.

Flynn, who has called Islam as a whole a “cancer” in the past, made the comments during a speech to the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Video of his speech is available on YouTube and was reviewed by CNN’s KFile.

“We are facing another ‘ism,’ just like we faced Nazism, and fascism, and imperialism and communism,” Flynn said. “This is Islamism, it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.”

The quote is accurate but the exact working has led some to suggest Flynn is saying Islamism is a problem for each individual adherent of Islam. However, earlier in the same speech Flynn makes nearly the same comparison (at 12:04 in this clip):

In the case of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, you know, in the Levant—whatever you want to call ’em, there is a disease inside of the Islamic world that has metastasized to the point where they are executing a campaign plan based on a declaration of war by the Islamic State, the leadership of the Islamic State, they have declared war against us…

Metastasis is the process by which cancer spreads throughout the body, so Flynn is clearly comparing Islamic extremism to a cancer within Islam. It’s a metaphor. The later quote, which CNN highlighted today, appears to be a rephrase of the same idea, i.e. there are 1.7 billion Muslims and “Islamism” is a cancer within that group.

According to this CNN story, Flynn has previously called Islam as a whole a cancer. It’s not clear where CNN is getting this but you can find other news outlets making this same claim. For instance, the Dallas Morning News published a story back in August which points to a speech Flynn made in Dallas that month:

He likened Islam, a religion with 1.6 billion adherents worldwide, to “a cancer” and said that documents recovered from terrorist organizations instruct followers to “get into the bloodstream of the opposition,” which Flynn said means to attack Western nations.

A recent ABC News story about Flynn pointed to the Dallas Morning News story as evidence the General had compared Islam as a whole to cancer:

Speaking this summer at an ACT for America event in Dallas, Flynn likened Islam to “a cancer,” according to the Dallas Morning News, adding that documents taken from terrorist groups tell followers to “get into the bloodstream of the opposition,” which Flynn said he interprets as attacks on Western nations.

When you actually listen to what Flynn said during the Dallas speech, it sounds a lot like what he said in the other speech quoted by CNN. Here’s the full statement with plenty of context before and after the cancer comparison (video below):

So we’re dealing with a mindset, an ideology, the Islamic ideology—and I, you know, I call it radic…you know, how we can win the global war against radical Islam and its allies, that’s the subtitle of the book. The field of fight comes from the Iliad and the Odyssey. The field of fight is the battlefield, and it’s a poem that the warriors used to say before they went into battle…and how we can win the global war against radical Islam and its allies. Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion and I have a very, very tough time because I don’t see a lot of people screaming Jesus Christ with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, literally axing families on a train. Or like they just killed a couple of police officers with a machete. I mean it’s unbelievable so we have a problem. It’s like cancer. Okay, I’ve gone through cancer in my own life. Okay, so it’s like cancer and it’s like a malignant cancer though in this case. And it has metastasized. It’s like I just said in the number of attacks in 22 countries in just the last 45 days, I mean, when I look back over the last 10 years or 15 years of my life and the things that I’ve seen and the things that I’ve witnessed against this very vicious threat. So that’s one component of it is to look at it from a military component. But one of the things that we’re not allowed to do in this country and one of the reasons why I wrote the book is because there is a war being waged against us. They have, the Islamic State, has declared war against us, they’ve declared it, fully declared it. And they are waging it. And our government in fact our president only a couple of weeks ago, probably less than two weeks ago, in fact it was after the Orlando attack, said ‘what difference does it make what we call it?’

Obviously the Dallas Morning News and ABC News and CNN disagree, but it seems clear to me that Gen. Flynn was not comparing all of Islam to cancer. He is talking about an ideology which he calls “radical Islam” citing the subtitle of his book. (Note: Flynn’s book is titled The Field of Fight which is why he mentions the origin of that phrase.) He does say “Islam is a political ideology” but from his use of “radical Islam” immediately before and the examples that follow it’s clear he’s talking about radical Islam, i.e. people who are attacking others with guns and hatchets. He specifically references the Orlando attack on a gay nightclub and an ax attack which took place on a train in Germany in July.

In addition, Flynn says the malignant cancer has metastasized and then points to “the number of attacks in 22 countries.” He’s clearly talking about violent radicals who are carrying out attacks around the world, that’s the cancer comparison being made. From there he segues into talking about the Islamic State and their war against the U.S.

It’s certainly possible that somewhere out there Flynn has more directly compared Islam to cancer but in the case of these two speeches he is referring to radical Islam as a cancer within Islam. You can see the statement above in this clip starting around 23:30: