Bozell Column: Michael Graham, Spiked By ABC

Remember this the next time ABC toots its own horn as a defender of free speech. Michael Graham, a popular talk-radio host on ABC-owned WMAL in Washington, DC, publicly declared that "Islam is a terror organization." Under pressure from a radical Islamic group, ABC fired him.

Left alone as a sentence, Graham’s charge is a wild overgeneralization. But he didn’t utter a sentence. He delivered an entire series of oral essays over a four-day period exploring the point.

Graham plainly stated in print and on the air that he had "great sympathy for Muslims of good will who want their faith to be a true ‘religion of peace.’ I believe that terrorism and murder do violate the sensibilities and inherent decency of the vast majority of the world's Muslims." But his main point was unquestionably clear and disturbing: millions of Muslims refuse to condemn terrorists in their midst and tell pollsters that suicide bombings and other acts of terror are defensible.

With their firing, it’s clear that the timid ABC brass wasn’t listening to Graham. It was listening to the Council on Islamic-American Relations, a radical lobby that fights so-called "Islamophobia" in the media. CNSNews.com reported that CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper went so far as to blame a recent alleged hate crime against a pregnant Muslim woman in Virginia on Michael Graham.

ABC Radio hasn’t always been this exquisitely sensitive to critics.

Just before Thanksgiving 1992, one ABC Radio host claimed that Pat Robertson’s political influence showed that American values had "degraded from precise, clear-headed common-sense awareness to fuzzy-brained superstitious nonsense." Controversial? Yes. But the ABC man continued attacking the religious right: "In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan urged the nation to adopt family values and to return to old-time religion. Similarly, Adolf Hitler launched a family-values regimen. Hitler's centered on his ideas of motherhood. Fanatics in the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party, the Hezbollah, or any other intolerant organization, refer to themselves as religious warriors. As warriors, fanatics censor the thoughts of others and love to burn books."

That host’s name was... Hugh Downs, ABC’s longtime anchorman at "20/20." We noted that he had tied Christians to Nazis and terror groups, and ABC was fine with that.

But ABC stands out as an outlet that’s hypersensitive to CAIR types. It’s not hard to find a pile of examples of the Disney "news" crews bending over backwards to avoid labeling Hamas and Hezbollah as "terror" groups. Consider:

1. On the August 21, 2003 edition of "World News Tonight," reporter Mike Lee twisted himself into a semantic pretzel: "Abu Shanab was a senior member of Hamas, a political and social welfare organization with a military wing that has launched terror attacks against Israel. Shanab was not a declared military operative and had a reputation as a political moderate, but Israel said today that all Hamas leaders are responsible for terrorism."

A "political and social welfare organization with a military wing"?

2. The late Peter Jennings frequently challenged, if only indirectly, terror connections. On the May 20, 2002 evening newscast, he said: "In North Carolina two men went on trial for smuggling cigarettes to allegedly help the group Hezbollah in Lebanon, which the government calls a terrorist organization."

3. Reporting from Lebanon on March 27, 2002, Jennings sounded like he was reading a press release: "It is Hezbollah, which means ‘The Party of God,’ that gets credit for liberating Lebanon from the long Israeli occupation. Yesterday, I went to see its 38-year-old leader, Hassan Nasrallah. He is a popular member of the political establishment. The Bush administration says Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. ‘Hezbollah was proud to resist the Israeli occupation,’ he says. ‘We gave our lives. We are not terrorists.’" Later in the same report, Jennings referred to Americans slaughtered by Hezbollah, but wouldn’t mention Hezbollah’s role: only "A man" drove a truck bomb into the U.S. Embassy, as if the attack were anonymous. Then the Marine barracks was somehow blown up anonymously.

4. On December 4, 2001, other newscasts described Hamas as a terror group, but not ABC’s Jennings: "The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation is accused of financing the militant Islamic group Hamas which claimed responsibility for last week’s suicide attacks against Israelis." The day before, Jennings couldn’t be precise, either, in noting "there’s some question as to whether Mr. Arafat can really control organizations like Hamas."

These TV-news examples all come from after September 11, when ABC should have been more serious about the Islamic terror threat facing every American. But ABC is much more comfortable describing Jesse Helms as a "terrorist" (George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," September 14, 1997) than in using the T-word against Hamas and Hezbollah, and any other Islamofascist groups seeking the destruction of America and her allies.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center