ABC, CBS: Did 'Heightened Fear and Prejudice' of Ground Zero Mosque Prompt NYC Violence?

ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's Early Show on Thursday both speculated as to whether the stabbing of a New York City cabbie was prompted by a climate of anti-Islamic anger. At the same time, GMA and NBC's Today both ignored the fact that the attacker, Michael Enright, volunteered for a charity supporting the mosque.

ABC's Jeremy Hubbard wondered if the violence was "proof the rhetoric surrounding the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero has created a heightened fear and prejudice against Muslims." Early Show's Chris Wragge bluntly asserted, "And this ongoing debate may have led to a brutal anti-Muslim attack here in New York City."

However, only CBS's Elaine Quijano pointed out this salient piece of information: "Now, as for Michael Enright, he had volunteered for a group that promotes interfaith dialogue. The group Intersections International has supported the controversial cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero."

ABC's Hubbard vaguely explained, "[Enright] also volunteers for a collegiate, church-affiliated group, dedicated to promoting peace and understanding."

ABCNews.com, on the third page of a three page story, did acknowledge the connection:

Enright had traveled to Afghanistan with an organization called Intersections International, a New York-based group that promotes itself as promoting justice and peace across lines of faith (and has come out in support of the Islamic cultural center's construction.)

NBC's Today had almost no coverage of the violence. Natalie Morales briefly explained, "An Honors student is charged with attempted murder and assault after allegedly stabbing a New York City cab driver in the neck. The victim said the suspect, Michael Enright, asked him if he was a Muslim and then slashed him."

A transcript of the Early Show segment, which aired at 7:12am EDT, follows:

CHRIS WRAGGE: A new poll says a growing number of Americans are against the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. And this ongoing debate may have led to a brutal anti-Muslim attack here in New York City. CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano has the disturbing details this morning. Elaine, good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Good morning to you, Chris. Well, police say the attacker was a college student who had done volunteer work in Afghanistan. He is now behind bars facing multiple counts, including attempted murder and assault as a hate crime after allegedly attacking a cabbie who said he is Muslim. Police say 21-year-old Michael Enright asked a New York City cab driver whether he was Muslim. When he answered that he was, Enright, authorities say, attacked. First uttering in Arabic a common greeting in the Muslim world, peace be unto you.

AHMED SHARIF (slashing victim): I'm driving. He ask me where I'm from. I said, "Bangladesh." Then, second question he asked me, "Are you Muslim?" I said, "Yes." Then he told me "As-Salamu Alaykum."

QUIJANO: The alleged hate crime took place against the backdrop of a highly emotional debate over whether an Islamic cultural center, including a mosque, should be built two blocks from Ground Zero. The protests are spreading from New York to Tennessee where an intense debate over a proposed mosque near Nashville has raged all summer.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's not about religion. It's about stopping Tennessee homegrown terrorists.

QUIJANO: There are nearly seven million Muslims and 1200 mosques in the United States. But a CBS News poll found 71 percent of Americans say it's inappropriate to build a mosque so close to Ground Zero. Among them, some families of 9/11 victims.

KEN FAIRBEN (father of 9/11 victim): I understand their religious beliefs. I understand they should have a place to play, an educational center. I have no problems with that whatsoever. But not there. Definitely not there.

QUIJANO: Now, as for Michael Enright, he had volunteered for a group that promotes interfaith dialogue. The group Intersections International has supported the controversial cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero. If Enright is convicted of attempted murder, he faces a maximum eight to 25 years in prison.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org