CNN's Feyerick Promotes Ground Zero Mosque Imam

Deborah Feyerick, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCNN's Deborah Feyerick played up Imam Feisal Rauf's apparent credentials as a "moderate" Muslim during a report on Wednesday's American Morning. Feyerick omitted using sound bites from Rauf's critics, and only briefly mentioned his controversial remarks about on CBS's 60 Minutes about the 9/11 attacks and his reluctance to condemn Hamas.

The CNN correspondent's report led the 6 am Eastern hour, and was re-broadcast throughout the day on the network. Almost immediately, Feyerick stressed how Rauf is apparently a "voice of moderation" by playing three clips from three who unequivocally endorse him- the State Department's P. J. Crowley, mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal, and Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University. She continued by describing the Islamic cleric as a "Sufi Muslim, at the other end of the Islamic spectrum from the radical theology that feeds groups like al Qaeda."

After two further sound bites from Esposito, who gushed over Imam Rauf, Feyerick highlighted his background: "According to his biography, Feisal Abdul Rauf was born in Kuwait in 1948 into an Egyptian family steeped in religious scholarship. In 1997, he founded the non-profit American Society for Muslim Advancement- its mission, described on its website, as 'strengthening an authentic expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, youth, and women's empowerment.'"

The correspondent didn't bring up Rauf's controversial past until the end of her report, and almost as an after-thought: "He was criticized after 9/11 for saying U.S. support of oppressive regimes was partly responsible for the attacks, but maintained his remarks on 60 Minutes had been taken out of context. Rauf supports Israel's right to exist, but says as a bridge builder, he can't condemn radical Palestinian group Hamas as terrorists." Overall, Feyerick played six clips in favor of the imam, and none critical of him. She didn't even quote from any specific critic of his.

Feyerick has been on a roll, as of late, with her recent one-sided reporting on the Ground Zero mosque and related "Islamophobia" issues. On August 26, she advanced the theory that the stabbing of Muslim taxicab driver in New York City may have been "connected to this big Ground Zero controversy, where we're hearing so much anti-Muslim sentiment." Exactly a week later, on September 2, the CNN correspondent continued her network's promotion of the charge that "Islamophobia" is a growing phenomenon inside the U.S.

The full transcript of Deborah Feyerick's report from Wednesday's American Morning:

FEYERICK (voice-over): If you have never heard him speak, this is what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has to say.

IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF: The major theme in Islam is the oneness of God, and that we should worship one God- love and adore the one God.

FEYERICK: People who know Imam Feisal say he's a voice of moderation. The State Department-

STATE DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SECRETARY P. J. CROWLEY: His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well known.

FEYERICK: The developer of the controversial Islamic center near Ground Zero.

SHARIF EL-GAMAL: He is somebody who has sacrificed his life to building bridges within communities.

FEYERICK: Islamic scholar and university professor John Esposito.

FEYERICK (on-camera): How would you describe him? Is he a threat?

JOHN ESPOSITO, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Feisal is, from my point of view- he is 'Mr. Mellow.'

FEYERICK (voice-over): Imam Feisal is a Sufi Muslim, at the other end of the Islamic spectrum from the radical theology that feeds groups like al Qaeda.

ESPOSITO: He approaches Islam spiritually. He is a Sufi in background, which means one pursues, if you will, a more, kind of, spiritual mystical path. He's somebody who would find terrorism and religious extremism as abhorrent. He's run a mosque in this area for years and years and years.

FEYERICK: That mosque, the Masjid al-Farah, is 10 blocks from Ground Zero, and has co-existed peacefully in the Tribeca neighborhood for 28 years.

ESPOSITO: He has integrated himself into the community.

FEYERICK: According to his biography, Feisal Abdul Rauf was born in Kuwait in 1948 into an Egyptian family steeped in religious scholarship. In 1997, he founded the non-profit American Society for Muslim Advancement- its mission, described on its website, as 'strengthening an authentic expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, youth, and women's empowerment.'

Several years later, Rauf founded the Cordoba Institute to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West, writing how American Muslims can help bridge the divide. The State Department noticed, sending him as a cultural ambassador on four trips to the Middle East, most recently this summer.

GRAEME BANNERMAN, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They try to get people who reflect the best aspects of American society.

FEYERICK: Rauf is often asked to speak at meetings like the World Economic Forum in Davos. He was criticized after 9/11 for saying U.S. support of oppressive regimes was partly responsible for the attacks, but maintained his remarks on 60 Minutes had been taken out of context. Rauf supports Israel's right to exist, but says as a bridge builder, he can't condemn radical Palestinian group Hamas as terrorists. As for the proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, he says that, too, is about bridges.

RAUF: This is also our expression of the 99.999 percent of Muslims all over the world, including in America, who have condemned and continue to condemn terrorism. This is about our stand as the Muslim community, which has been part of this community.

FEYERICK: But right now, this moderate Muslim cleric finds himself at the eye of a storm. Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center