UPDATE (9/30 - 1:13 pm): The Society of Professional Journalists emailed me requesting a correction. Clarification - though no correction - below the fold.
When American religious leaders spoke out against the planned burning of Korans by a crazy Florida pastor, it was a hot news item. Likewise, when another group of clergy condemned the supposed "anti-Muslim frenzy" in the United States, the media ate it up.
But when, on Tuesday, scores of prominent American and Canadian Muslims spoke out against "threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims" with the express purpose of silencing speech, the media was conspicuously silent. It remains so today.
"We, the undersigned," declares a petition at the website of The American Muslim, "unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible."
Here's a fact you're not likely to see on tonight's evening news broadcasts: According to a recent poll, Arabs living abroad are more likely to be opposed to the "Ground Zero Mosque" than the American media are.
According to a recent survey by the Arabic online news service Elaph (Arabic version here), 58 percent of Arabs think the construction should be moved elsewhere. And according to a Media Research Center study released last week, 55 percent of network news coverage of the debate has come down on the pro-Mosque side.
The MRC study also found that on the question of whether opposition to the mosque demonstrated a widely held "Islamophobia" among Americans, 93 percent of network news soundbites answered ion the affirmative. In contrast, when asked whether the United States is a "tolerant" or "bigoted" society, 63 percent of Elaph respondents chose the former.
On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, host Jon Scott picked up on a recent "Media Reality Check" report by the Media Research Center – parent organization to NewsBusters – titled "Smearing America as Islamophobic," which documented that the mainstream media have portrayed America as Islamophobic because of public opposition to the Ground Zero mosque. Scott: "The Media Research Center, Jim, released a study this week titled 'Smearing America as Islamophobic.' The overall thrust is that networks like NBC, CBS, ABC are calling these protests at Ground Zero, protests over the mosque, Islamophobia. Do they have a point?’"
After panel member Jim Pinkerton of the New America Foundation voiced his agreement with the MRC’s findings, Scott seemed to pick up on another MRC/NewsBusters item as he quoted ABC’s Christiane Amanpour from last week’s This Week show when she portrayed America as Islamophobic. Scott: "Let me read you a quote from Christiane Amanpour... At the top of her show on Sunday, she noted the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that had just passed, and she said, ‘She said nine years later, the growing hostility toward Muslim-Americans. Not since 9/11 has the country seen such anti-Muslim fervor,’ and said, ‘Muslim-Americans are feeling vulnerable.’ Where’s her proof?"
The View's resident political sage Whoopi Goldberg offered her usual degree of intellectualism on Wednesaday's show, when she told people protesting against the Ground Zero mosque to "kiss my butt" and "get out of here."
Apparently fed up with Americans voicing their collective discontent with individuals and actions they find highly offensive, Whoopi stated (video below the fold):
The fact that there were protests on 9/11 really also irritated me. You know what, I don't have time to listen to your side or your side. This is about the people that lost their lives. That's why we're coming together. And the fact that y'all are fighting in the streets - kiss my butt, get out of here.
On the September 11th Saturday Early Show, CBS News Middle East analyst Reza Aslan slammed opponents of the Ground Zero mosque as having "unapologetically politicized" 9/11 and being part of a "whole wave of anti-Muslim sentiment."
While he denounced others for trying to "take advantage of this symbol for their own political purposes," Aslan made his comments only seconds after live coverage of the first moment of silence for victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Co-host Chris Wragge accepted Aslan's characterization of the controversy and responded: "...this is not an opportunity to add controversy into the mix. If there's one day, you know what, to keep our mouths quiet and let's just reflect on the lives lost, today is it, you don't mess with that."
Aslan followed up by admitting: "I'll be honest with you, I hope that there is kind of a backlash against what's going on right now. As you know, at 1pm today there'll be a rally in support of the so-called Park 51 project, at 3pm there'll be this international rally against it. So, I'm hoping that Americans all over the country see these images and think we've gone too far."
He later specifically condemned mosque opponents: "...particularly in the case of this sort of international anti-Islam rally that's being brought by this group called Stop Islamization of America. And they're inviting all these European anti-Muslim politicians in to speak. I mean, that's really now taking this to a whole other level."
NBC's Andrea Mitchell reporting live from Tehran on Tuesday's Today show, on the American hikers held hostage in Iran, relayed Iranian government spin, that the Ground Zero mosque protest and controversial Koran "desecrations" have "added to the tension here, the anti-American spirit." Spurred by a question from substitute anchor Carl Quintanilla about the protests in New York city, Mitchell actually held up one of the state-owned newspapers and relayed that "if the government needed any excuse to drum up more anti-American fever," they have it, as she noted "all the headlines" in Iran are about the "desecration" and "burning" threats of the Koran.
The following segment was aired on the September 14 Today show:
Last Friday Mika Brzezinski and Morning Joe engaged in some strange and possibly unprecedented TV "journalism." They invited Terry Jones—the potentially Koran-burning pastor—on the show via live feed, gave former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham the chance to lecture him about Christianity and implore him not to proceed with his plan . . . then summarily cut the feed without giving Jones the chance to say word one in response.
"We don't really need to hear anything else" declared Mika, as she shut down the pastor's microphone.
A number of bloggers, including NB's own Matt Hadro and me, noted and criticized Mika's bizarre move. But there was Joe Scarborough on the show today, mockingly writing off Mika's critics as "crazy people."
Dan Rather this weekend smacked down the entire panel of the syndicated "Chris Matthews Show" over the press hyping Pastor Terry Jones's threats to burn Korans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
"Media in general bear some responsibility here by running so hard with this story so early and putting such comments as you just said not only on the air, but high on the air, giving it play," Rather said.
When everyone on the set - including Matthews, Katty Kay of the BBC, Andrea Mitchell of NBC, and David Ignatius of the Washington Post - disagreed with him, Rather pushed back, "We do have a responsibility, however you want to describe us, as gatekeepers."
He continued, "We could do a better job of putting it in perspective, putting it into context" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ABC’s Christiane Amanpour used Sunday’s This Week to again shame Americans for their presumed irrational intolerance and Islamophobia as she railed against the ignorance of too many Americans, provided a friendly forum to Iman Faisal Abdul Rauf, whom she prompted to ridicule Sarah Palin, and then brought aboard a group of three “leading thinkers on faith” to “discuss religious tolerance and Islamophobia in America.” That brings Amanpour’s show tally to six guests in favor of the Ground Zero mosque versus zero opposed (four today, two on the August 22 program).
Unmentioned by Amanpour or her guests: A report presented Friday by former 9/11 Commission Co-Chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton about, according to Reuters, a needed “wake-up call about the radicalization of Muslims in the United States.” The report warned: “The U.S. is arguably now little different from Europe in terms of having a domestic terrorist problem involving immigrant and indigenous Muslims as well as converts to Islam.”
At the top of Sunday’s show, Amanpour noted the 9/11 anniversary and used it to frame her agenda: “Nine years later, the growing hostility towards American Muslims.” In a lengthy set-up piece leading into Rauf, Amanpour fretted that “the plans to build an Islamic center close to Ground Zero have whipped up anti-Muslim sentiment” and insisted: “Not since 9/11 has the country seen such anti-Muslim fervor.” She asserted “Muslim-Americans are feeling vulnerable, with attacks on mosques in California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. And the latest fuel poured on the fire, a threat to burn Korans...” And “these tumultuous events have created a global backlash. From Washington, to the Vatican, to Afghanistan.”
New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote a short piece on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 that should be must-reading for all Americans on both sides of the aisle.
In fact, I'm sure liberal Times devotees will be just as shocked by "A Lesson From 9/11" as conservatives that take the three minutes necessary to get through it.
After sharing his experience as a New Yorker who was in Manhattan that awful day, Blow marvelously tied it all together with what Americans have fought and died for since our forefathers were colonists:
Those are the two most prevalent words uttered or typed on this tragically historic day.
For many, September 11, 2001, was a day that will forever be seared into the minds of those who were witness. On that day, the nation was awoken by a harsh reality that some people want nothing more than to destroy our freedom, our way of life. It was a day that 19 hijackers, four airplanes, two towers, and one deranged ideology brought the threat of terrorism to the forefront in our country.
But a mere nine years after 9/11, has the leadership of this nation, both administrative and media related, already forgotten?
Yesterday, on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, the President of the United States of America had the tone deaf audacity to ignore the concept of time and place, choosing to defend the building of the Ground Zero victory mosque. In his news conference, President Obama said that the proposed New York City mosque has run up against the "extraordinary sensitivities around 9/11." In other words, he hears the sensitivities, he simply does not care.
Alan Colmes on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 said America shouldn't commemorate these attacks every year, and was nicely smacked down by Judith Miller for his smarmy efforts.
Discussing the anniversary coverage on "Fox News Watch," Colmes said, "Every 9/11 it's become like a national day of remembrance, which I understand from an emotional standpoint, but I wonder if it's such a good idea that every year we make such a big deal on the media of it being 9/11."
Miller shot back, "The reason you do it is to remember why we have the counter-terrorism policies we have...We need to be reminded why we're doing this."
Colmes pathetically replied, "9/11 should not be revered as some kind of national almost holiday."
"It's not revered. It's commemorated," said Miller (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Saturday’s Good Morning America on ABC, during a discussion of the Ground Zero mosque and the possibility of Koran burning in Florida by Pastor Terry Jones, after anchor Dan Harris brought up the naive liberal expectation that President Obama would be able to improve relations with the Muslim world because of his family connections to Islam and his inaugural speech reaching out to Muslims, ABC News consultant Richard Clarke suggested that Obama’s inaugural address had "helped a lot" to make America safer before being derailed by recent controversies. Clarke's suggestion came after he had argued that recent events have made America "a lot less safe," with the conversation continuing:
DAN HARRIS: But, you know, there was all this talk when President Obama was inaugurated that here's a man whose middle name was "Hussein," he spent part of his childhood in a Muslim country, he's made a LOT of effort to reach out to the Muslim world, and, in fact, gave an impassioned set of statements on this very issue yesterday. Has none of that helped?
RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it did help. When he said in his inaugural address, "America is not at war with Islam," that helped a lot. But the recent controversies have undone all of that.
Clarke – a former counterterrorism advisor for both the Clinton and Bush administrations who has a history of sharp criticism of the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 – later in the segment vaguely impugned the Bush administration’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks: "We have to anticipate that there will be another attack. And we have to think about what our reaction's going to be when that occurs. Last time, a lot of our reaction was counterproductive."
Pastor Terry Jones announced on NBC's "Today" show Saturday that they've decided not to burn Korans:
"We will definitely not burn the Koran, no...Not today, not ever," Jones said. "Even though we have not burned one Koran, we have gotten over 100 death threats...We feel that God is telling us to stop, and we also hope that ... maybe that will open up the door to maybe be able to talk to the Imam [Feisal Abdul Rauf]."
Imagine for a moment you were the editor of a magazine owned by the Washington Post and Newsweek. Would you a day before the ninth anniversary of 9/11 publish an article with the following headline:
The Talibanization of America Viewed from Pakistan, the rise of U.S. Islamophobia looks depressingly familiar.
Seems rather inflammatory hours before such a solemn day in America, don't you think?
Yet, such was published Friday by Foreign Policy magazine, an affiliate of the Slate Group.
Sadly, the contents - which in paragraph three equated former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with prospective Koran burner Terry Jones - will likely be even more offensive to the vast majority of Americans especially on September 11:
"The more Ronald Reagan was attacked like this, the stronger he got," Media Research Center (MRC) founder and NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell explained on the September 10 Fox & Friends. “The more conservatives are being attacked this way, the stronger we're getting."
Referring to insults directed at Americans who oppose the construction of a mosque close to Ground Zero, Bozell excoriated the liberal media for dismissing conservatives as bigots: "There are a lot of serious debates you can have, but to do this name calling...this is all the Left has left."
For the full segment's MP3 audio, click here. To watch the segment, click here to download the WMV video file or click the play button in the embed above.
Chris Matthews on Thursday accused Sarah Palin of aiding and abetting Pastor Terry Jones, the man threatening to burn Korans on Saturday's ninth anniversary of 9/11.
For days, Matthews and his colleagues on MSNBC have been calling upon Republicans to speak out against Jones.
On Wednesday, the former Alaska governor did exactly that at her Facebook page and at Twitter.
But this wasn't enough for Matthews who repeatedly on the 5PM installment of "Hardball" attacked Palin for being too "soft" in her admonishment of Jones, and actually accused her of giving the Pastor the linkage between burning Korans and the controversy surrounding the Ground Zero mosque.
Matthews also included House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) in his pathetic plot (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CNN offered a sneak preview of their upcoming Parker-Spitzer program on Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360 with the new hosts, pseudo-conservative Kathleen Parker and "Client Number Nine" Eliot Spitzer agreeing that the "well-spoken" Imam Feisal Rauf changed few minds with his recent interview. The two also forwarded their network's charge that "Islamophobia" is growing in the U.S.
Anchor Anderson Cooper began the segment by asking the two about Soledad O'Brien interview of Rauf, which took place the previous hour. Parker, the "Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and noted conservative commentator," as Cooper called her, endorsed his appearance and went on to characterize the two sides of the debate over the planned Ground Zero mosque. In her view, those who oppose it "were going to sort of be looking for ways to convince yourself that he was...trying to be this, sort of, secret jihadist." On the other hand, the supporters of the mosque "understand that he seemed as a reasonable, rational person who's well-spoken and has something important to say."
Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf chose ABC's Christiane Amanpour to spend “several hours” with on Thursday in New York City, and just as she did back on the August 22 This Week when she featured Rauf's wife and an ally, she again served as his public relations agent, forwarding his claims without challenge. After passing along his denial of any deal to move his project, Amanpour gushingly relayed meaningless blather about his great concern: “The imam went on to tell me that this whole issue is so sensitive because he has to really take care of sensitivities here in the United States and abroad.”
Amanpour proceeded to tout that he's now back from an overseas trip “all about interfaith dialogue and trying to reach the moderates,” and he warned, as he did on Wednesday's Larry King Live, that if he doesn't get his way Muslims will murder Americans. Amanpour, however, didn't describe that as a protection racket or suggest he's employing blackmail. Instead, she just paraphrased his spin that his warning -- about his vanity – is “a matter of vital national security” to the U.S.:
He says that this has become a huge international issue, the issue over the Islamic center in Manhattan and also the threatened Koran burning. And so everybody, all over the world, not just here in the United States, is watching. And he felt, and he said to me, that he thought it was a matter of vital national security not to give in or to move that Islamic center.
As the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, and Americans fret about a Pastor they never heard of burning Korans to commemorate the event, people on both sides of the political aisle should be asking a serious question: did the media negligently create this controversy?
After all, Terry Jones has a tiny, 50 member, non-denominational church in Gainesville, Florida.
Should some unknown Pastor - with a following smaller than what's normally in line at an In-n-Out restaurant drive-thru! - wanting to burn Korans generate such a media firestorm that an international incident and our national security are threatened?
As Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel wrote Wednesday, if you knew the real attention-getting background of Jones, the answer would be a definitive "No":
On Wednesday's Rick's List, CNN's Rick Sanchez tried to connect the overwhelming opposition to the planned Ground Zero mosque to a Florida pastor's "Burn a Koran Day" event. Sanchez asked former New York Governor George Pataki, "Do you feel in any way that some of this backlash...led by some fine gentlemen like yourself...has kind of paved the way for that controversy, and if so, do you feel guilty at all?" [audio clip available here]
Sanchez interviewed Pataki during the prime time edition of his program. Just before the bottom of the 8 pm Eastern hour, the anchor raised Pastor Terry Jones's planned inflammatory protest: "Let me ask you one final question, if I possibly can. There's this new hullabaloo going on in Gainesville, Florida, with this pastor who wants to literally burn Korans. And now, we're getting protests in Afghanistan- our generals are saying this guy's going to get our troops killed."
Snatching the proverbial low-hanging fruit off the branch, Arianna Huffington compared the vast majority of Americans who oppose the construction of a mosque close to Ground Zero to the thirty members of a Florida church who plan to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11. Appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America" today, the liberal publisher criticized the president for not echoing her logical fallacy.
"I think the point [President Barack Obama] could have made is to connect [Koran burning] with the opposition of the mosque," asserted Huffington, publisher of The Huffington Post. "You can't really completely separate these things."
Huffington then attempted to pass off circular logic as a "teachable moment:"
NBC's Meredith Vieira, on Thursday's Today show, invited on New York Republican Congressman Peter King and CAIR's Zead Ramadan to discuss the potential burning of Korans by Pastor Terry Jones and the furor over the Ground Zero mosque, but it was only King that was pressed by the Today anchor, as Vieira let Ramadan go unchallenged even when he equated opposition to the mosque to internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and even slavery.
First up, Vieira, after playing a clip of Feisal Abdul-Rauf, recited the Imam's concerns to King that if he moved the location of the mosque now it "would just be fueling the radicals" to which the New York Congressman shot back that "he seems to be equating the 71 percent of Americans who oppose this as being radicals." Then Vieira let CAIR's Ramadan go on, uninterrupted, as he proceeded to compare the protest surrounding the Ground Zero mosque to some of America's worst moments of intolerance as he went on to say: "The issue with the public sentiment is that when an issue is related to bigotry, unfortunately our history has shown that sometimes we're on the wrong side. For example we interred Japanese during World War II, we segregated our military, our schools, and it took on Executive Order to undo that. And we also enslaved our fellow Americans. So I mean when it comes to bigotry we've got to be careful about the public sentiment." [audio available here]
The following is the full segment as it was aired on the September 9 Today show:
In an interview with Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith implied a link between Ground Zero mosque opposition and a pastor's plan to burn the Koran: "...a line that can be drawn from the...anti-Muslim sentiment that seems to be growing in this country and seems to be festering in the Islamic cultural center....Do you see a line that connects here?"
Ellison, the only Muslim member of Congress, defended the planned mosque: "...in my view, the cultural center in lower Manhattan, the purpose of it wasn't to offend or insult anyone. The purpose was to try to build bridges of understanding...there's no doubt that the people who pull this project together were not intending to insult anyone." The Congressman then agreed with Smith's characterization of the opposition: "...there does seem to be a certain wave of anti-Islamic sentiment."
“Anti-Muslim bigotry is a problem, but it is only exacerbated by the media's tendency to exaggerate and sensationalize it,” the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto observed Wednesday in looking at the media’s focus on the threat, to burn Qur’ans, by one widely condemned Florida pastor with barely a few dozen followers. On Wednesday night, for the second night in a row, two of the three broadcast network evening news shows led with Terry Jones (ABC and CBS on Tuesday, CBS and NBC on Wednesday.)
But what I found amusing is how network journalists decided Sarah Palin, the Pope – and even Pat Robertson – are now sources of wisdom worth publicizing. Over aerial video of the Vatican (screen capture below), Katie Couric teased the CBS Evening News: “Tonight, despite condemnation from the Vatican and a personal plea from Muslims, that Christian minister in Florida is going ahead with plans to burn copies of the Qur'an.”
“This is the news,” an excited Diane Sawyer announced on ABC, “not only is Billy Graham's son Franklin trying to reach out to him, so is Sarah Palin.” Terry Moran relayed how “late today, Sarah Palin tweeted her opposition, writing: ‘Please stand down.’ And long-time televangelist Pat Robertson blasted Pastor Jones this morning.”
CNN'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."
In an interview with controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones on Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith doubted whether or not Muslim extremism was really a threat: "Would you regard radical Islam, then, as the enemy?"
While Jones' plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 has been rightfully condemned as offensive and an unnecessary provocation, Smith's response of questioning the danger of Islamic radicalism altogether denies the ideological motivation of America's enemies. After Jones described receiving threats over his planned event, Smith responded by quoting scripture: "...you're a student of the New testament, I'm sure. Did not Jesus say you're to love your enemy?"
After Jones continued to defend the burning of the Muslim religious text, Smith again cited the Bible: "But there are at least two different times in Matthew and Luke where Jesus is quite, quite clear about loving – about loving your enemy." Concluding the interview, Smith commented: "Well, I know you say you've been praying about it. And I hope that you find the wisdom in order to do the right thing, as the next couple of days unfold."
The Imam in the middle of the Ground Zero mosque controversy finally spoke about the issue Wednesday by publishing a New York Times op-ed without once mentioning the overwhelming public opposition to the location of this Islamic center.
Somewhat curiously, he didn't even refer to last week's poll by the Times finding two-thirds of New York city residents against the building of such a facility two blocks from where radical Islamists killed thousands of innocent people almost exactly nine years ago.
But that didn't stop Feisal Abdul Rauf from putting a happy face on an issue that has deeply saddened much of the nation he is also a citizen of: