New York Rep. Peter King fired back Wednesday at his fellow Republican congressman, Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk, for saying that he felt safer during a recent trip to Israel than he "would in certain parts of New York or Chicago."
King said that Loudermilk's comments reflected widespread misperceptions about the city's crime rate, and claimed that Atlanta -- whose northern suburbs make up much of Loudermilk's own district -- has a much higher crime rate than New York.
"People from outside of New York, certainly from the South or the West -- they seem to have this compulsion to look upon New York as this high-crime den of evil," said King. "The fact is, if we're going to single an area out for being dangerous, Atlanta would come far ahead of New York."
"New York is, by most accounts, the safest big city in the United States; Atlanta is -- the last I saw -- on the FBI's list of most dangerous cities," King continued.
"It's just wrong when members of Congress take shots at New York and imply that we're some kind of crime area, when we're actually the safest."
King claimed that Atlanta's murder rate is "five times higher" than New York's.
King added that he could understand someone "coming from a small town, coming to New York, seeing things he never saw before, and not knowing how to react," and suggested that the "knee-jerk" impulse to demonize New York grew in part from the city's diversity, which he said can be overwhelming to people not used to life in a cosmopolitan center.
Because New York is "culturally different" from other parts of the country, King suggested, "they just then accept this total exaggeration and distortion about New York being the center of crime."
"I mean, we take it for granted in New York that you're gonna have different ethnic groups all over the place, that you're gonna have different religions all over the place, that you're gonna have so much activity," said King.
"Many other communities in the country are -- basically, they're all the same. They're not used to the diversity we have in New York."
"I'm not saying that as any great liberal," King added. "It's a fact of life that we accept, encourage, and actually thrive on this, almost, conflict of ideas at times."