CBS Accuses Peter King of 'Poisoning the Atmosphere' of Radical Islam Hearings

On Thursday's CBS Evening News, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes implied that the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims was simply a political show put on by committee chairman Peter King: "Ignoring calls from Democrats to cancel his hearing...King embarked on the inquiry in a room newly decorated with fiery images from 9/11."

Cordes later declared that "King's own past assertion that most U.S. mosques are run by radicals" resulted in "poisoning the atmosphere" of the hearing. She remarked on how King's "relations with Muslim leaders there [in his Long Island, NY district] deteriorated after 9/11." A sound bite was then featured of Dr. Faroque Kahn of the Islamic Center of Long Island, who labeled King a "Muslim-basher."

On Thursday's Early Show, Cordes acknowledged that "Islamic radicalization is an issue that has been explored on Capitol Hill many times before without provoking this kind of reaction." However, she justified condemnation of this particular hearing by claiming "King's very public differences with the Muslim community have made him, and this hearing, a lightning rod."  

During her Evening News report, Cordes hit King for only inviting witnesses to testify who "share his view that some Muslim-American leaders aren't cooperating with law enforcement." She added that "From the start, Democrats called the hearing an abuse of power." However, later in the segment, she touted emotional testimony from Democratic Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims in Congress, who disagreed with King's premise.

On the Early Show, Cordes framed the upcoming hearing almost exclusively in the context of Democratic criticism: "In a letter sent on the eve of the hearing, nine of the committee's 13 Democrats call on Chairman Peter King to cancel the hearing, due to its, quote, 'incomplete and unduly divisive nature.' The letter comes after a group of Muslim leaders gathered to condemn the hearing, and the man behind it."

Later in that report, she described how "the battle lines have hardened, with King's critics comparing him to Senator Joe McCarthy, who crusaded against communists in the 1950s." A clip was shown of Cordes asking King: "Does that make you recoil? Does it make you think, 'Maybe I should have come at this from a different direction'?" King replied: "No. And I see the people who are attacking me, I'm gratified." Cordes pressed: "It doesn't trouble you at all?"

Here is a full transcript of Cordes' March 10 Evening News report:

6:30PM ET TEASE:

KATIE COURIC: Tonight, as Congress examines whether some American-Muslims are being radicalized, an emotional tribute to one who died a hero on 9/11.

KEITH ELLISON [REP. D-MN]: But as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.

6:31PM ET SEGMENT:

COURIC: It was an emotional day on Capitol Hill as the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee opened a hearing that focused on terrorism and the involvement of some American-Muslims. Critics say that by holding the hearing, Peter King is unfairly demonizing an entire religion. King contends Muslim-Americans are not doing enough to fight terrorism or to keep young Muslims from being drawn into it. We have two reports tonight, first congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, who was at today's hearings.

NANCY CORDES: Ignoring calls from Democrats to cancel his hearing, Homeland Security Chairman Peter King embarked on the inquiry in a room newly decorated with fiery images from 9/11. The Republican invited three people to testify – all of whom share his view that some Muslim-American leaders aren't cooperating with law enforcement.

DR. M. ZUHDI JASSER [PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY]: It is about that separatism, that idea that the Islamic state takes precedent, Islamic law takes precedent over American law.

CORDES: Two of the men have relatives who were recruited by terrorists.

DANIEL LUNGREN [REP. R-CA]: And when you brought that to the attention of members of –  of leaders of your mosque, did they encourage you to deal with law enforcement?

ABDIRIZAK BIHI [DIRECTOR, SOMALI EDUCATION AND SOCIAL ADVOCACY CENTRE]: No, as a matter of fact that they threatened me, intimidated me, and not only me, the whole families.

CORDES: From the start, Democrats called the hearing an abuse of power.

LAURA RICHARDSON [REP. D-CA]: Clearly, this committee is setting a dangerous precedent in treating one religious group different than another.

CORDES: But Republicans say a spike in U.S. jihadist terror plots justify their focus. Between May of 2009 and November 2010, arrests were made for 22 such plots, more than in the previous 7 years combined.

MIKE ROGERS [REP. R-AL]: There is that small element in the community that's radicalizing.

CORDES: Poisoning the atmosphere was King's own past assertion that most U.S. mosques are run by radicals.

SHEILA JACKSON LEE [REP. D-TX]: Cleaning a dirty kitchen, you can`t clean it with dirty water.

CORDES: King is from Long Island and his relations with Muslim leaders there deteriorated after 9/11.

DR. FAROQUE KHAN [ISLAMIC CENTER OF LONG ISLAND]: I have some serious concerns because Congressman King has been a Muslim-basher.

NANCY CORDES: Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim congressmen, broke down as he recalled a paramedic killed on 9/11 who was later smeared because of his Muslim faith.

KEITH ELLISON [REP. D-MN]: His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion.

CORDES: Despite the tension, King called this his happiest day.

PETER KING [REP. R-NY]: I challenge anyone to find anything that was improper about today's hearing.

CORDES: In fact, he says, he's motivated to hold more hearings on the topic. The next one, he says, will focus on radicalization in prisons. Katie.

COURIC: Nancy Cordes. Nancy, thanks very much.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC