Bozell Column: The Media and the Mega-Mosque

It was deceptive. At a White House dinner with Muslims celebrating Ramadan, Barack Obama finally weighed in on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Incredibly, he lectured Americans about the religious freedom of Muslims “that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan.”

Those were prepared remarks, a clear and very deliberate effort to skirt the issue. But this time, it was blatantly sophomoric, too.

Of course there is a legal “right.” That doesn’t make it the right thing to do. After causing an instant national uproar, Obama saw the need to flinch. The next day, he suddenly announced to CNN that “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.”

So much for presidential leadership. Once again, Barack Obama is no profile in courage. As he did hundreds of times as a legislator, he was voting “present” again. He made a radical declaration to appeal to a radical constituency, and then pretended he’d not taken that position. I’m getting deja vu from his vote in Illinois for the radical policy of aborting infants who were accidentally born alive -- but then, running for president, he declared the issue of when life begins “above my pay grade.”

Polls found almost 70 percent of the nation was appalled by the audacity of a mega-mosque proposal two blocks from the crime scene of 9/11. Obama’s political fortunes are in serious jeopardy. His left-wing supporters in the “news” media are rallying to his defense.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius hailed Obama’s remarks. "I thought the speech Friday night was a model of political courage, in the sense that he said what he believed knowing that it was going to cost him," he said. “When I travel...we hear comments about that America a lot. I think you shouldn't minimize the benefits of saying to a moderate Muslim, ‘Here you are.’ This upsets a lot of Americans, but we're going to do it anyway.”

Reuters global editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland, a deeply devoted Obama groupie, seconded that emotion, saying Americans want “someone who governs according to conviction,” as if Obama hadn’t tried to shirk that title. “For American leaders to say in the face of, you know, some political pressure from their voters, to say actually we believe sufficiently strongly in diversity, in private property rights for our Muslim citizens, I think that's a great global message.”

Left unsaid: George W. Bush often governed according to conviction and against the polls. But the liberals never found that admirable. In 2007, Ignatius wrote that the surge in Iraq was preposterous: “What's starting to crack isn't the obdurate Bush, but the country.” 

History wasn’t the point. Like Obama, the media aren’t looking back at the horrific violence of 9/11. They are much more comfortable projecting the violence that might occur from conservative resistance to the mosque proposal. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” reporter Dan Harris touted that “Muslim activists” decried a “rising tide of Islamophobia in the country, with increasingly venomous fights” over mosque construction.

That night, Harris repeated that spin: “Muslim activists say angry rhetoric is fueling a dangerous level of Islamophobia, with protests over proposed mosques in places like Tennessee and Wisconsin, the bombing of a mosque in Jacksonville, Florida, in May, and a church in Gainesville, Florida, that's now planning to burn Korans on September 11.”

Historical analogies were strained. On ABC, Rep. Keith Ellison compared the mosque-builders to the Pilgrims, just seeking religious freedom. Not to be outdone, on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann compared mosque opponents to the Nazis, in particular the old Martin Niemoller line about “They came for the communists, but I was not a communist...” Somehow, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin were coming to send Muslims to concentration camps. Olbermann tried to acknowledge he wasn’t trying to compare a Manhattan zoning battle to the Holocaust, but....that conservatives were “building up a collective pool of fear and hate” and “the need to purge” could outstrip “the parameters of the original scapegoating.” Forget it. He was definitely using the Nazi smear.    

Once again, the media have demonstrated that they feel their job is galloping to the rescue of Barack Obama, no matter how low he sinks in the polls – or how low they sink in the ratings advancing politically noxious positions.

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