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At a CNN town hall, Ted Cruz defended Tuesday his desire to have law enforcement patrol Muslim neighborhoods

Cooper highlighted how cops who ran the program said it wasn't effective

Washington CNN —  

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz defended Tuesday his desire to have law enforcement patrol Muslim neighborhoods to prevent terrorist attacks.

“There’s a difference between Islam and Islamism,” he told Anderson Cooper at CNN’s Republican Town Hall. “Islamism is a political and theoretical philosophy that commands its adherents to wage violent jihad to murder or forcibly convert all infidels. And by infidels, they mean every one of the rest of us.”

“Islamism is our enemy. And when President Obama and Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party play this politically correct game of denying it, it means they don’t fight effectively,” Cruz added.

Cooper told Cruz that lawmakers have pushed back on the Senator’s previous statements calling the New York City police program a success.

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“You did talk about patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. You kept saying that worked in New York, but political correctness made the police stop that,” Cooper said. “New York Police have pushed back on that. (New York City Police Commissioner William) Bratton said that was just complete bunk.”

“The guy who ran that program that you said was such a big success says it didn’t lead to any prosecution. There were no leads from it,” he added.

Cruz said his statements were dismissed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration for political reasons.

“I understand that the commissioner who worked for Bill de Blasio has a political imperative. Bill de Blasio is a left-wing radical,” he said.

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But Cooper said it was not only Democrats and De Blasio who said Cruz’s claim was false.

“The commander who oversaw the very program that you claim was a success in New York testified under oath that it didn’t lead to any investigations,” Cooper said.

But Cruz insisted that the program was a success.

“In New York, this was a successful program. It was set up under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to monitor and to work cooperatively with the Muslim community to prevent radicalization and to stop radical Islamic terrorist plots before it occurs,” he said.

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“There were a number of cases. It identified a book store that was a locus for radicalization and allowed law enforcement to go after that book store,” Cruz added.

The senator said De Blasio ended the program due to “political correctness.”

“When Mayor Bill de Blasio got elected, he gave into political correctness and he shut it down,” Cruz said. “If you want to stop radical Islamic terrorism, the answer isn’t to go hang out in random neighborhoods, it is instead to focus on communities where radicalization is at risk.”

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Cruz previously praised the controversial program called the Demographics Unit. The program, which lasted from 2003 to 2014, used plainclothes officers to monitor conversations and the whereabouts of people in Muslim neighborhoods in the New York region.

The program was set up under Bloomberg to find places where potential terrorists might radicalize to prevent terror plots. This involved gathering information about neighborhood demographics, creating profiles on residents, and building lists of mosque memberships.

The NYPD admitted in 2012 that its program never led to a terrorism investigation by the NYPD, during at least six years of surveillance.

It’s also unclear how “cooperative” this program was. Muslim community leaders lambasted the program and its tactics. The NYPD became the subject of two federal lawsuits because of this program, and the department settled both of them, agreeing that it would bolster oversight of its intelligence gathering and create guidelines to avoid religious profiling. One of the lawsuits accused the NYPD of violating the Constitution through religious profiling. The NYPD did not admit engaging in any improper practices, according to the settlement.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct a quote from Ted Cruz.

CNN’s Sonam Vashi contributed to this story.