What Donald Trump Said About Syrian Refugees At The GOP Debate Is Totally Wrong, Of Course

During the sixth Republican debate, Donald Trump was asked about his flat opposition to admitting any Syrian refugees into the United States. He justified his stance on the grounds that “this could be the great Trojan horse,” and went on to say that he only sees “strong, powerful men” when he looks at groups of refugees. “Where are the women?” he asked. But Trump’s implication that Syrian refugees are all men? Um, flatly wrong.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, women and children make up two-thirds of the 2.9 million Syrians who’ve been displaced in their country’s four-year civil war. In fact, the majority of refugees are women — 50.5 percent, according to the U.N. — and an estimated 38.5 percent of them are children younger than 12.

So, how about those “strong, powerful men” that Trump talked about? As it turns out, men between the 18 and 59 only make up 21.8 percent of all Syrian refugees. Unfortunately, the U.N. hasn’t provided data on how many of them are “strong and powerful,” so it’s impossible to verify that aspect of Trump’s claim.

In any event, Trump is clearly incorrect about this, and that matters for reasons that extend beyond the mere fact that he was wrong. The reason Trump was even talking about the demographic composition of Syrian refugees was to justify his opposition to granting any of them a safe haven in the United States. The alleged overrepresentation of men within refugees is ostensibly why Trump is so skeptical of the refugees’ true intentions. But if he’s wrong about that (and he is), his position becomes a lot flimsier than it already was.


Oh, and that’s not even mentioning the glaring problem with Trump’s overarching premise — that is, the idea that only strong and powerful men can be terrorists. One of the San Bernardino shooters, Tashfeen Malik, was a woman, and Trump even cited that attack earlier in his remarks.

No matter how you slice it, Trump’s comments, as they often are, were way off-base.