WASHINGTON - The violence spreading throughout the Middle East recently is merely an "uptick in what has been hundreds and hundreds of years of religious conflict," MSNBC host Chuck Todd said on Thursday during an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The argument put forward by Todd elicited a chuckle from McCain, as casual Western observers of the Middle East often view the region through an oversimplified prism built of assumptions about the region's history, culture and people that don't square with reality.
“Chuck, for a thousand years Sunni and Shia lived side by side. There was occasional tension, but there's never been anything like this spreading across the entire Middle East," McCain said on Todd’s “The Daily Rundown.”
Earlier this month, McCain traveled with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to Afghanistan to meet with that country’s leadership to discuss security threats to the United States.
During Thursday's interview, Todd asked McCain, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, “Right now, you look at the entire region, I mean, Iraq right now looks like it’s on the verge of a civil war; Syria, a civil war. We saw what happened in Egypt. … Aren’t we just seeing an uptick in what has been hundreds and hundreds of years of religious conflict that is basically turning into a whole bunch of civil wars?”
The exchange with Todd is the most recent example of McCain correcting the media while on the air. In September, the Arizona Republican chided Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade for his reaction to members of a Syrian opposition group saying "Allahu Akbar" after a fighter jet had been shot down. McCain said he thought it was rather uncontroversial for fighters to say "thank God" after a battlefield victory.