Sanchez made the comment in an interview on “PoliticKING with Larry King,” which was flagged by Buzzfeed News.
“There is a small group, and we don’t know how big that is—it can be anywhere between 5 and 20 percent, from the people that I speak to—that Islam is their religion and who have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in anyway possible, and in particular go after what they consider Western norms—our way of life," she said.
The California congresswoman, who is running for Democrat Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat, did not cite a source for those figures.
In an email to TPM, Sanchez’s press secretary Emily Morris pointed out that the congresswoman repeatedly emphasized during the interview that she didn’t know the size of the group of Muslims who held these beliefs.
Morris sent over an emailed statement from Sanchez, who said, “I strongly support the Muslim community in America and believe that the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not support terrorism or ISIS.”
Her comments come amid a wave of heightened anti-Muslim rhetoric, sparked by reports that the married couple who killed 14 in a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California last week were radicalized abroad. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has captured headlines in the days since the attack by proposing a ban for all Muslims hoping to enter the United States.
Sanchez has previously criticized Trump for his comments about Latino immigrants. In a November speech from the House floor, she said that Trump’s “divisive and racist rhetoric has very troubling and real world consequences.”