Never mind the personal feelings of people, which they're entitled to have, over the notion of a mosque being built in close proximity to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. Those sensitivities have nothing to do with what's really going on. It's really all about President Barack Obama and his political opponents according to New York Times columnist Frank Rich.
On MSNBC's Aug. 26 broadcast of "The Rachel Maddow Show," host Rachel Maddow admitted she was befuddle that anti-Islam sentiment has seemingly peaked in the past few weeks and wondered why it has suddenly been brought to boil, with the mosque in question at the forefront.
"For all the bad decisions made post-9/11, we really didn't see a national, like, open partisan two-minutes hate toward Muslims the way we are seeing now about this mosque debate," Maddow said. "Why is it happening now?"
Former New York Governor George Pataki on Wednesday got into a heated discussion with Chris Matthews over the Ground Zero mosque and the Republican opposition to it.
In the middle of his second "Hardball" segment on MSNBC, Matthews played a clip of Rush Limbaugh saying on the radio earlier in the day, "If this is a nation that is Islamophobic, how do we elect a man whose name is Barack Hussein Obama?"
This led Matthews to ask his guest, "What do you think of guys that keep putting out lies like that?"
Over the course of the next five minutes, Pataki basically took over the show not only putting Matthews in his place, but also doing the same to his other guest, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Picking up where she left off last week, MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski on Tuesday and Wednesday cast opponents of the Ground Zero mosque as a "destructive" force, "demonizing" Muslims and "promoting ignorance."
Yet Brzezinski advocated Wednesday for a compromise between the two sides to be spearheaded by President Obama. When Joe Scarborough opined that President Obama, along with former presidents, needs to get involved in a compromise, Mika blurted out that "if [Obama] can have a summit in Boston between a professor and a cop, I think he can do this."
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" panels largely supported the proposed Ground Zero mosque on both Tuesday and Wednesday, although they did show sympathy toward families of 9/11 victims. But the talking heads still would not give full credence to opponents of the mosque.
Perhaps the climax of the struggle came toward the end of Tuesday's 7 a.m. hour, where Mika faced off against the vice president of America's 911 Foundation, Nick Leischen. The organization supports active first responders nationwide in memory of the 9/11 attacks.
After Leischen, speaking for families of 9/11 victims, said that the mosque within sight of Ground Zero would be an affront to grieving persons returning to the site, Mika unleashed her tirade.
In a stunning display at a protest over the Ground Zero mosque, a Holocaust survivor was berated by a mosque supporter. The mosque supporter spews vulgarities at the holocaust survivor and at one point even says he "didn't learn his lesson". Content warning, we did not bleep out the profanities.
Still more slanted coverage in the New York Times of the controversy over a proposed mosque at Ground Zero: First in Saturday's story by intelligence reporter Scott Shane, fretting that public opposition voiced to the speedy approval and building of a giant Islamic cultural center topped by a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero would somehow make radical Muslim extremists, who despise the very existence of America, hate the U.S. even more: "Anti-Islam Protest in U.S. Bolsters Extremists, Experts Say" (Note: This article was compiled from three separate articles prepared for Times Watch).
Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.
Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaeda's claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.
Recently Eyeblast went to New York City to interview people on the street about the Ground Zero mosque. One of the people we interviewed was a Muslim supporter of the mosque who tells Americans they need to "get over" 9/11.
Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday fretted that the "angry voices" protesting against the Ground Zero mosque will hurt Barack Obama's attempts to reach out to the Muslim world. Talking to American University Professor Akbar Ahmed, the MSNBC host put the responsibility of tolerance on Americans: "Some would say that it is, really, for Americans, for majority of Americans to be more sensitive to minority communities." [MP3 audio here.]
Defending Fiesal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the project, she lobbied, "It's not really the obligation for the imam to, you know, he talked to members of the Jewish community, the JCC, the Jewish Community Centers were a model... He talked to some members of the 9/11 families, not all clearly. Why is the burden on him?"
They'll have all sorts of excuses (but only if asked) about why it happened: It's because they had a lot of guest anchors last week, it was hot, summer vacation season is still on (though lots of kids around in Greater Cincinnati were already back in school by last Wednesday), cable is killing us, blah-blah, etc., etc.
But the Big Three networks won't be able to avoid the fact that their ongoing decline reached a painful low last week of 18.82 million average viewers. Here is the graphic that appeared this morning at ABC's lipstick-on-a-pig blog post:
I don't know whether that's an all-time low, but Kevin Allocca at Media Bistro, who hadn't posted the full numbers as of the time of this post, has noted that one of those networks indeed scraped bottom last week:
Time magazine's Joe Klein yesterday did what he does best: take one paragraph from a neoconservative's column and blow it out of proportion and out of context in order to go on an extended screed bashing conservatives in general and neocons in particular.
Writing for his magazine's Swampland blog yesterday, Klein addressed Bill Kristol's editorial for the August 30 Weekly Standard print edition entitled, "He's No Muslim, He's a Progressive."
Klein started off with a backhanded compliment:
Well, it's good to learn that there are limits to Bill Kristol's tactical skeevery. He clearly states here that Barack Obama is not a Muslim. No winks, no nods, no gratuitous McConnellesque "If he says he's not, that's okay with me."
With that out of the way, Klein dove into his screed:
"There is a debate to be had about the sensitivity of building this center so close to Ground Zero. But we can not let fear and rage tear down the towers of our core American values." -- Katie Couric's Notebook, 8-23-10 [emphasis added]
Hey Norah: Katie's stealin' yer lines!
As I noted here, last week Norah O'Donnell accusedmosque opponents of acting "like the people who attacked America and killed 3,000 people."
In her "Notebook" of yesterday, Katie Couric sounded the same theme. Couric employed WTC imagery to claim that "fear and rage" [translation: animated mosque opponents] were threatening "to tear down the towers" of our core American values.
The front page of Monday's New York Times featured a story on how Rick Lazio, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, is gaining voter appeal from his strong opposition to the building of a mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks: "Lazio Finds an Issue in Furor Over Islamic Center."
Reporter Michael Barbaro, while conceding the popular appeal of Lazio's opposition, managed by tone to suggest Lazio was somehow engaged in inappropriate politicking, confirmed by the story's text box: "Commercials that appeal to some may risk the alienation of moderates."
Mr. Lazio's relentless opposition to the project -- he again attacked the imam behind it during an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" -- is, above all, aimed at Republican primary voters, analysts say. But it risks alienating moderates who could prove crucial in a general election. And it certainly is infuriating many Muslim leaders, who say he is preying on the worst fears of voters; and provoking a backlash from some influential voices in the community of Sept. 11 emergency workers, who say he is exploiting the tragedy.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lazio is pushing ahead with the strategy, even breaking what has been, until now, something of an unwritten rule of politics in New York: never to use images of Sept. 11 in campaign advertisements.
The Times drug up an incident from 10 years ago to make Lazio into some kind of anti-Muslim campaigner:
In Monday's “Best of the Web Today” compilation, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto highlighted a New York Times online column posted Friday, from “superannuated erstwhile TV host Dick Cavett,” who “reports that the mosque controversy brought back childhood memories.” Cavett recalled World War II when he “heard an uncle of mine endorse a sentiment attributed to our Admiral 'Bull' Halsey: 'If I met a pregnant Japanese woman, I’d kick her in the belly.'”
In the post provocatively titled “Real Americans, Please Stand Up,” as if those who disagree with him are not “real” Americans – at least they aren't to the New York Times editors -- Cavett then equated feticide with peaceful opposition to the mosque near Ground Zero:
These are not proud moments in my heritage. But now, I’m genuinely ashamed of us. How sad this whole mosque business is. It doesn’t take much, it seems, to lift the lid and let our home-grown racism and bigotry overflow. We have collectively taken a pratfall on a moral whoopee cushion.
Later he denigrated mosque critics as he derided “airborne sludge” from Rush Limbaugh:
"Nowhere near Ground Zero, but no more welcome: Outcry over mosque proposals in Tennessee and elsewhere could be a sign of rising anti-Muslim sentiment across the country."
With those words, the front page headline* and subheader for an August 23 Washington Post story by Annie Gowen conflated the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque with opposition to other mosques across the fruited plain, namely one planned for Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from where Gowen filed her story.
Gowen waited until 27th pragraph in the 41-paragraph story to introduce the man spearheading the opposition, "a stocky 44-year-old correctional officer named Kevin Fisher" who "spent his formative years in Buffalo, where a home-grown terrorist cell of Yemeni Americans was uncovered in 2002."
Yet long before she ever got around to quoting Fisher, Gowen set out to portray the opposition to the mosque as the work of intolerant, ignorant rednecks.
ABC News set out Monday night to rehabilitate the reputation of the iman behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, Feisal Abdul Rauf, trying to discredit criticism of him from the right as Sharyn Alfonsi portrayed him as a model of religious tolerance who condemns suicide bombers, terrorism and Hamas and who deserves admiration because he “eulogized Daniel Pearl.”
The night before, in a Sunday World News story on protests over the mosque, ABC expressed sudden respect for former President Bush as reporter Linsey Davis used him to undermine opponents: “In an attempt to make a clear distinction between Islam and terrorism, within days of 9/11 President Bush went to a mosque.”
Alfonsi generously began with how “he candidly discussed his beliefs with Barbara Walters for her 2006 special on Heaven” where he promised her “the Jews, the Christians, whoever believes in God and does good will be saved.” As for whether “one man's suicide bomber is another man's martyr?”, Alfonsi assured viewers:
In his book, the imam wrote: “The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong and no argument or excuse, no matter how deeply believed, can ever make it right.”
Mowjood? As Alana Goodman of the Business and Media Institute reported earlier this month, Sharaf Mowjood is a former lobbyist for the Council on American Islamic Relations, an interest group that strongly supports the mosque. Mowjood coauthored a glowing Dec. 9, 2009 article on the mosque with reporter Ralph Blumenthal and also contributed to a sympathetic story by Barnard August 11 about public relations missteps by the mosque sponsors.
Barnard began with an anecdote about a Rauf lecture in Cairo where the imam (with a voice the Times describes as "soft, almost New Agey") was accused by radical Islamists of being an American agent (a story which of course bolsters Rauf's moderate credentials). Barnard seemingly took it as her mission to rebut charges of extremism against Rauf.
In his absence -- he is now on another Middle East speaking tour sponsored by the State Department -- a host of allegations have been floated: that he supports terrorism; that his father, who worked at the behest of the Egyptian government, was a militant; that his publicly expressed views mask stealth extremism. Some charges, the available record suggests, are unsupported. Some are simplifications of his ideas. In any case, calling him a jihadist appears even less credible than calling him a United States agent.
Time magazine's Mark Halperin engaged in the ultimate condescension Monday morning, arguing that families of 9/11 victims need to be guided by others into the Ground Zero mosque debate.
"For the families of the victims of 9/11, whatever emotions they want to have, I respect and I honor. But somebody needs to lead them through a discussion," Time's senior political analyst lectured on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He mentioned a meeting that reportedly took place between the mosque's planners and the 9/11 families, which he insisted "needs to happen."
Halperin said the meeting "did not go well," but added it was and is necessary. "As I said before, whether it moves or stays, that discussion must happen. This must be done with reconciliation. And it's got to be led by leaders, not by people like Rick Lazio...and facts," Halperin noted.
The show picked up fresh from where it left off last week, bashing the supposedly inflammatory rhetoric from the right opposing the mosque and sympathizing – while disagreeing – with the families of 9/11 victims over the planned mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero.
The mainstream media are telling us that "it's the fringe that's upset" about the Ground Zero mosque, but polling data show "it's 70 percent of the American people," NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell noted on Friday's "Hannity" program.
"That means every conservative, every moderate, and some liberals too" think the Ground Zero mosque is in extremely poor taste, leaving only "the far left and people still dropping acid," who fail to see why it's controversial, the Media Research Center founder quipped.
"If Barack Obama runs on this in 2012, he will make Jimmy Carter look good by comparison.... This is how bad this position is, and everybody understands it except for the press," Bozell argued later in the "Media Mash" segment.
For the segment's audio, click here to download the MP3. Click the play button on the embed above for video, or click here to download the WMV video file.
New York Times columnist Frank Rich on Sunday blamed America's opinion of the Ground Zero mosque on the "Islamophobia command center" of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
As readers are likely aware, its properties include Fox News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal, all witting accomplices to a devious plot to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment according to Rich.
Never mind that public opinion polls around the country and in New York state show vast majorities in opposition to the building of this Islamic center at the site of the 9/11 attacks.
File this under "Fascinating Things You Learn When Researching Other Things."
The Associated Press's infamous memo huffing and puffing about how it will henceforth describe the 13-story mosque/community center/kumbaya center that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf would like to have built on a site two blocks away from where the World Trade Center Towers once stood opened with this sentence:
We should continue to avoid the phrase "ground zero mosque" or "mosque at ground zero" on all platforms.
Obviously the publicly announced editorial decision was news, but how about the lack of uppercase letters in "Ground Zero"?
It turns out that both the AP and the New York Times routinely do not capitalize "Ground Zero," making them grammar outliers. Here was one grammarian's take on the matter in 2007 (bolded in final sentence is mine):
Not even feigning the pretense of balance, a week after her roundtable hailed President Obama’s initial endorsement of the Ground Zero mosque (GZM), on this Sunday’s This Week host Christiane Amanpour featured an “exclusive” with two GZM proponents as she declared “the controversy has raised profound questions about religious tolerance and prejudice in the United States. And the backlash against Islam has been seen across the country...”
Holding up the current Time magazine with its “Is America Islamophobic?” cover, she forwarded the contention: “Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?”
Amanpour’s guests, to “cut through the heated rhetoric” on the only Sunday interview show with a guest segment on the GZM (Fox News Sunday took it up in its panel time): Daisy Khan, wife of imam behind the project, and Rabbi Joy Levitt, from the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, “who's an adviser on the project.”
Amanpour began by undermining the idea the community center with a prayer room inside is all that close to Ground Zero: “Opponents say that it's just too close to the site of the 9/11 attacks, though it cannot be seen from there. It took an ABC News producer two minutes and 45 seconds to walk from Ground Zero to the site of the proposed center.”
Robert Reich on Sunday falsely accused former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of saying Muslims are like Nazis.
As NewsBusters reported last Monday, Gingrich was quoted by the New York Times as saying that building a mosque at Ground Zero "would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum."
Gingrich elaborated on "Fox & Friends" that very morning:
Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There's no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.
Unfortunately during the Roundtable segment of ABC's "This Week," Reich claimed without challenge that Gingrich said, "Muslims are like Nazis" (video follows with transcript and commentary, file photo):
On Sunday’s Reliable Sources on CNN, during a discussion of the Ground Zero mosque controversy, after Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson recommended that the mosque be moved as a compromise, NPR’s Michel Martin – formerly of ABC News – compared relocating the mosque to similarly treating a Catholic church after the Oklahoma City bombing.
Even though McVeigh -- who described himself as "agnostic" despite his Catholic parents -- timed the bombing to coincide with the second anniversary of the Waco disaster to signal that he was motivated by revenge, Martin ridiculously responded: "Did anybody move a Catholic church? Did anybody move a Christian church after Timothy McVeigh – who adhered to a cultic, white supremacist cultic version of Christianity – bombed the Murrah building in Oklahoma?"
Below is a transcript of the relevant exchange from the Sunday, August 22, Reliable Sources on CNN:
Talk about your teachable moments, the Ground Zero mosque controversy has taught us in just what contempt some in the liberal media hold their fellow Americans.
As I noted here, last week on MSNBC, Cenk Uygur accused Americans who oppose the mosque of being "ignorant." Washington Post blogger Joel Achenbach upped the ante, calling Americans "numbskulls, dumb, ill-informed, paranoid, gullible and goofy." This weekend on Fox News Watch, Ellis Henican also used the i-word, saying that when it comes to the mosque, pundits shouldn't be as "ignorant" as other Americans. Jim Pinkerton pounced, pointing out the MSM's preening moral superiority that Henican had illustrated.
Henican had opened the mosque segment by saying that those such as himself who live in lower Manhattan are more receptive to the mosque than people who live farther away, speculating that in Idaho are 99% against it. Later came this exchange . . .
CNN's T. J. Holmes brought back Time's Bobby Ghosh on Friday's Newsroom for more promotion of his "Islamophobia" cover story, and added two Muslim guests who largely agreed with his thesis that anti-Islamic sentiment was "coming into the mainstream," and how this was apparently a "reason for alarm." Holmes asked softball questions, and no one with an opposing viewpoint appeared during the segment.
The anchor had the three on for a panel discussion at the bottom of the 10 am Eastern hour about Ghosh's "Is America Islamophobic?" article, as well the controversy over the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Before introducing his guests, Holmes held up two examples of apparent "Islamophobia" in the country and seemed to sympathize with the apparent plight of Muslims in the U.S.:
HOLMES: Two-and-a-half million Muslims live, work and pray in America- not always easy. Case in point: protests in California- check that out- marching against a proposed mosque in their area, holding signs with slogans such as, 'Muslims danced for joy on 9/11'- or how about the planned Islamic center and mosque near New York's Ground Zero? More than 60 percent of Americans are opposed to that center being built. But the scope is bigger than that, according to a Time magazine poll. More than 3 in 10 Americans would say no to a mosque in their neighborhood. Then there are statements like this one from evangelical leader Franklin Graham.
During the 10 a.m. ET hour on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing spoke with Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf Hanson about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, who proclaimed: "I think there's a lot of fear....there has been a concerted effort by a certain segment. It's a very small minority, but their powerful and vocal, to demonize the Muslim community."
Yusuf was on to discuss his founding of Zaytuna College in California, the nation's first Islamic higher education school. However, Jansing introduced the segment by placing the college in this context: "...the [mosque] controversy prompted Time magazine to ask, Is America – if America is Islamophobic. A Time poll found that 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers. And a small college in Berkeley, California, may become the new battleground in America's uneasy relationship with Islam."
After briefly discussing the college, Jansing turned to the mosque: "Do you understand the unease among many Americans, and we are seeing a lot of it come out with this mosque controversy?" After denouncing opponents of the project, Hanson defended the imam involved: "Feisal Abdul Rauf, who's the imam there, is an extremely gentle person and to frame him as an extremist means that the whole community is mad...these are people that have spent their life in interfaith dialogue..." Rauf claimed the United States was an "accessory" to the September 11th attacks during a September 2001 60 Minutes interview on CBS.
Yesterday Eyeblast.tv went up to New York City to interview people about the proposed Ground Zero mosque. While there, we were able to interview a security guard outside of the mosque location who said he was a long-time friend and follower of the Ground Zero imam.
On Thursday's Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty questioned the motives of the planners behind the proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero: "The developer... has said the proximity of the planned mosque and center is not an issue. Really?...It's simply unrealistic to think you can build a Muslim house of worship two blocks from where this awful thing happened, and not get a negative reaction."
Cafferty raised the mosque controversy during his 5 pm Eastern hour commentary: "Sometimes no answer can be an answer. When asked if a portion of the $100 million needed to build the mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero here in New York City might come from either Saudi Arabia or Iran, the developers refused to comment. This only adds to the already heated controversy surrounding this project."
The CNN personality, after noting that "15 of the 19 hijackers responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, and the destruction of the World Trade Center on September the 11th, came from Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. considers Iran to be a sponsor of terrorism," applauded New York Governor David Paterson's effort to find a compromise over the planned mosque's site, labeling him "one of the few rational voices in the conversation."
CNN's American Morning and Newsroom programs on Thursday brought on Time magazine's Bobby Ghosh to highlight his "Is America Islamophobic?" article and help promote his accusation that "hate speech" and "bigotry" have "come out into the mainstream" during the course of the debate over the proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero.
During his American Morning appearance, anchor Kiran Chetry hailed Ghosh's article, which is the cover story of the upcoming August 30th issue of Time, as "a very thoughtful piece." Anchor Ali Velshi, who conducted the second interview of the Time deputy international editor, went further than his colleague: "Okay, you're American- Time magazine is required reading....Bobby Ghosh...wrote the Islamophobia piece that I think everybody is going to have to read because if you are in this country, it's part of the dialogue that we are involved in at this point."
But only days earlier, in an August 3 Time.com article about the imam behind the mosque, Ghosh stated that the "last legal hurdle to the proposed Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center has been removed, but ignorance, bigotry and politics are more formidable obstacles....Criticism [of the mosque] spans the gamut, from the ill-informed anguish of those who mistakenly view Islam as the malevolent force that brought down the towers to the ill-considered opportunism of right-wing politicians who see Islam as an easy target." So the "thoughtful" Time editor whose latest is "required reading" even had the gall to criticize the families and the friends of those who died on 9/11, or who are generally emotionally-touched by the carnage of the attack.
Speaking to conservative commentator Ann Coulter on Thursday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill seemed to hope the Ground Zero mosque controversy had run its course: "Does it go away or does this continue through November?"
Hill's question to Coulter followed fellow guest, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, ranting: "...the notion that in the United States of America we would deny people the right to have a religious edifice is simply – like, that's just not – it's unconscionable....I think that smart Republicans, fair Republicans, fair people of all political persuasions need to look – are looking at this really as a constitutional issue and really as a freedom issue. It should not be this political question that it's become." Picking up on Acker's argument, Hill turned to Coulter: "So, it shouldn't be a political issue. Though is it going to continue to be one as we head to November?"
In her response, Coulter fired back at Acker: "I will say Tanya's absolutely giving the Democratic position. America, you want a mosque at Ground Zero, you vote for the Democrats." Acker angrily replied: "No. No, I'm giving – I'm giving the American position, Ann. I'm giving the American position because my constitution says that-" Hill then interrupted, notifying both guests that they were out of time.