In an unusual move, the Associated Press has publicly released an advisory memo to its reporters on how to cover the Ground Zero mosque story - and the first rule is that journalists must immediately stop calling it the "Ground Zero mosque" story.
"We should continue to avoid the phrase ‘Ground zero mosque' or ‘mosque at ground zero' on all platforms," reads the advisory, which was issued by the AP's Standards Center.
Instead of the "Ground Zero mosque," AP recommends that reporters use the terms "mosque 2 blocks from WTC site," "Muslim (or Islamic) center near WTC site," "mosque near ground zero," or "mosque near WTC site."
The AP suggests that it might "useful in some stories to note that Muslim prayer services have been held since 2009 in the building that the new project will replace." In addition, the news service offers a "succinct summary of President Obama's position" on the mosque, but doesn't include the positions of any other politicians.
Only Good Morning America's Jake Tapper on Thursday mentioned the call by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate those who oppose the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today both skipped any discussion of the subject. So did Wednesday night's network newscasts.
Tapper explained, "And the House top Democrat also called for transparency for who is funding the opposition to the Islamic center." He then featured a clip of Pelosi advocating, "And I have joined those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded."
Time magazine editor Richard Stengel on Thursday appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to bemoan the United States' "ignorance" towards Muslims and to wonder, "Is America Islamophobic?" That particular question is also on the front cover of the current issue of Time.
Leaving only two options, Stengel lectured host Joe Scarborough, "I mean, the extent of the ignorance- where you parse Islamophobia versus ignorance of Islam, I'm not exactly sure. But there is tremendous ignorance of Islam as a religion." Declaring that Christianity Judaism and Islam have great similarities, he derided, "And I think, you know, the American misconception about Islam is amazing."
Scarborough, at times, seemed to go along with the contention that America is Islamophobic. He complained, "As a country, this sort of hatred was visited upon the Irish...the Germans, Jews."
[Update; Thursday, 7:10 pm Eastern: Simmons admitted his error about the '93 World Trade Center bombing on his Twitter account: "Made critical error on CNN last nite. Was thinking of last major terrorist attack on US soil in OKC by McVeigh & mispoke"]
Russell Simmons, founder of the hip-hop label Def Jam, bizarrely and inaccurately claimed during an interview on Wednesday's Larry King Live on CNN that the perpetrators behind the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 were Christians: "If you're blaming Muslims for the attack on 9/11, then you need to change your mind. We didn't- did we blame Christians at the first World Trade attack? We didn't" [audio clip available here].
Host Larry King brought on Simmons to discuss the controversy over the New York City mosque near Ground Zero. He appeared immediately after an interview of New York Governor David Paterson, who attempted to negotiate with the planners behind the mosque in order to get its site moved. King first asked the entrepreneur to respond to the governor's efforts. He unequivocally supported the proposed worship space: "We should make every effort not to move it. I think it's critical that we recognize that we built this country on religious tolerance and on religious freedom. And so, if we want to penalize the two billion Muslims because of the actions of a few, then we have to examine the way we look at each other and all religions. So I think it would be a terrible idea to move the mosque."
As media members across the fruited plain try to convince skeptical Americans that Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Islamic Imam behind the Ground Zero mosque, is a moderate cleric, most have totally ignored an interview that he gave on CBS's "60 Minutes" less than three weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
To demonstrate just how wrong the press are about this man, Fox News's Bill O'Reilly played the relevant portions of that segment on Wednesday's "Factor."
As you watch this clip, it will be quite obvious why you likely have never seen it before (video follows with partial transcript):
Appearing in the 2:00PM ET hour on MSNBC, New York Daily News reporter Samuel Goldsmith cited a poll featured on the paper's website, about opposition to the Ground Zero mosque: "[it] shows that 70% of New Yorkers say that they think the opposition is out of hatred and religious intolerance."
Unfortunately, Goldsmith forgot to mention that it was a completely unscientific poll that only appeared within articles on the topic and allowed people to potentially vote numerous times. The slanted poll question read: "Is opposition to the building of a mosque near Ground Zero intolerant?" The three responses offered were: "Yes, it's pure religious bigotry against Muslims; No, you can be against because it dishonors victims of Sept. 11; Maybe, but the sensitive thing to do is to move it further from the WTC site."
Goldsmith touted the Daily News poll after anchor Jeff Rossen cited a scientific poll on the issue: "A new Siena College poll suggests – and we actually have the results right here – that 63% of New Yorkers oppose this Islamic center. Only 23% support it." After promoting the unreliable online poll, Goldsmith argued: "...there's a lot of voices coming out....It's hard to really get a grasp of what the public opinion is, I think."
For two days running, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" seemed overwhelmingly in favor of allowing the Ground Zero mosque to be built, despite a poll showing Americans being opposed to the construction of the mosque.
The panels included co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, and liberal columnist Mike Barnicle as well as MSNBC contributors Mark Halperin, Norah O'Donnell, and Pat Buchanan. Their toughest rhetoric was reserved for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, due to his comments about the mosque being the equivalent of Nazis hanging a swastika next to a Holocaust memorial. But the talking heads also failed to give the American people's opposition to the mosque its just due.
Perhaps the biggest gem came from columnist Mike Barnicle, who described those Americans questioning the mosque as stuck in their own reality. "They're not really thinking about the idealistic trek, they're thinking about their own reality," Barnicle quipped. "And their own reality is that we were attacked on September 11. They're not making the connection to the Constitution, and that's where we are this morning."
Joe Scarborough called the whole debate a "wedge issue" that is distracting the country "from doing good things" such as "working on jobs." The co-host continued, saying the issue has become so much more complicated due to opposition to the mosque, and added that America giving in to "radicals" could worsen the whole debate.
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday complained about "ugly" comments arising from the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. She also spun the founder and chief proponent of the construction as a moderate, "despite some criticism of the Imam from the right." [MP3 audio here.]
After fellow MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd asserted that the President felt like he had to speak out because "the debate was getting so loud," Mitchell editorialized, "Getting loud, heated, ugly and inaccurate, in fact." She then proceeded to tout Feisal Abdul Rauf to the Washington Post's David Ignatius.
Mitchell enthused, "And despite some criticism of the Imam from the right, it turns out that Feisal Abdul Rauf has been an unofficial U.S. ambassador to the Muslim world in addition to promoting peace and religious tolerance in Manhattan." At no time did she offer her viewers any hint that Abdul Rauf has made some controversial assertions.
[Update, 8:10 pm EDT: The original version of this article identified Roland Martin as a "black talk radio host." He no longer has his own radio talk show. He is still a CNN contributor, columnist syndicated by Creators Syndicate, and analyst for for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, according to his own website.]
On Tuesday's Anderson Cooper 360, CNN contributor Roland Martin strongly pushed for the Democrats to "stand up and protect the Constitution" by defending the planned New York City mosque near Ground Zero: "Democrats should get some spine and say, 'You know what? I am sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution.'...Stay strong- say it's about the Constitution."
Substitute anchor John Roberts brought on Martin, along with Republican strategist Ed Rollins and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, to discuss the continuing controversy surrounding the mosque project. The anchor first turned to the former black talk radio host and asked, "Roland, is this the sort of thing that Democrats want to be talking about right now, at a point where many people form their opinions of who they're going to vote for in November?" Martin didn't begin with his "constitutional" argument, but instead emphasized that Democratic candidates needed to focus on local issues: "Frankly, if I'm a Democrat and somebody comes to me with that question...I say, 'Hey, go talk to...the folks representing New York. I'm here talking about my district.'"
Grossman explained that the comparison stems from conservatives who pointed out an incident in the early 1990s when Pope John Paul II halted a planned convent near the Auschwitz concentration camp. The nuns had every right to build the convent, but it was unwise and insensitive to do so, leading the pontiff to scrap the plan. By way of analogy, Muslims have every right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but the insensitivity of doing so blocks from the site of the deadliest radical Islamic terror attack in U.S. history should lead Muslim leaders to call for the project to be scrapped.
But Grossman then went on to quote two liberals who reject the Auschwitz analogy as invalid before she conflated the Ground Zero mosque issue with isolated incidents across the country where other folks are raising NIMBY objections to mosques in their hometowns (emphasis Grossman's):
Bill Press is confused. He can't seem to decide whether Ground Zero is a sacred site. When he was using the memory of 9/11 as a political football to blast Glenn Beck, lower Manhattan was hallowed ground. But now that conservatives are making that claim, Press has proclaimed that the area "is not a sacred site." Make up your mind, Bill!
In June, Press compared Beck's planned 8/28 rally at the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech to an Al Qaeda "rally on September 11 - at Ground Zero." "Sometimes you have to stand up and say, this is wrong - the wrong place," he added. "It's a slap to the American people... There are some places where cheap political tricks should not be allowed."
But now that the right is saying virtually the same thing about the Ground Zero Mosque, Press has proclaimed that "there's only one reason to oppose this mosque, and that is to paint Islam as an evil religion and to paint all Muslims and equate them with a 19 terrorist who's flew into that building. it is wrong. it is un-American and the people against it ought to be ashamed of playing a cheap political trick" (h/t Jamas Taranto).
George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday again focused on GOP reaction to the Ground Zero mosque, challenging Karl Rove as to whether Republicans such as Newt Gingrich will "undercut the work" President Obama has been doing to reach out to moderate Muslims.
Stephanopoulos highlighted Republican officials "who worry that the kind of rhetoric we've been hearing from people like Newt Gingrich is going to undercut the work that President Bush did and President Obama has tried to do to reach out to the moderate Muslim world." [MP3 audio here.]
He quizzed Rove, "Are you worried about that?" At no time did Stephanopoulos discuss Obama's handling or the rightness of building so close to Ground Zero.
At one point, Rove retorted by bringing up the GMA host's past as a Democratic operative: "You were there, George. In every instance, did you have to go there and say, 'Mr. Clinton, you need to get involved in every single issue that's popping up on the radar scope?'"
So last night on the show, Andy Levy pointed out that the person representing the Ground Zero mosque on Twitter made a few jabs at the Amish.
This is what the Tweeter tweeted:
Amish saying stop Muslims?1. What are you doing on the computer? 2. That's not very Amish 3. Shouldn't you be making butter?
Later, that tweet was deleted.
Which is a shame, because it didn't have to go. See, the Mosque folks don't understand that here in America you can make fun of any religion - yes, even the Amish - and angry followers won't throw acid in your face or behead you in front of a tripod. And, as primitive as the Amish are, they won't even stone you to death for adultery. But the tweeting Park51 can be forgiven: maybe they thought the Amish might head out from Lancaster County and fly a buggy straight into their building. Don't worry, "Parky:" they wouldn't get the horses through the Lincoln Tunnel.
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.”
Not only did MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell hail President Obama's support of the Ground Zero mosque as "politically courageous," but she seemed disappointed when, on the next day, he walked back his comments a bit. On both her Monday and Tuesday MSNBC news hours, Mitchell seemed to emphasize that Obama once again kowtowed to the conservative media on an issue he was originally on the right side of.
Mitchell told Chuck Todd that Obama's remarks at the iftar dinner in support of the mosque were "politically courageous, in terms of domestic politics." She then asked why Obama then changed his tone the next day. She used the "politically courageous" phrase again, later on the show.
Chuck Todd, meanwhile, labeled the story as one "that was basically a creation of the conservative blogosphere in many ways."
When the media outlet disaffectionately called the "Clinton News Network" starts ridiculing you to such an extent that you are depicted as a worse communicator than George W. Bush, you know your popularity as a Democrat President is in trouble.
Yet that's what happened Tuesday when CNN published a piece prominently displayed on the front page of its website with the surprising headline:
Critics Say Obama's Message Becoming 'Incoherent'
For the remaining fans of our 44th President, the article that followed wasn't any better:
In a Swampland blog post this morning entitled, "Something I Didn't Know," Time magazine's Joe Klein pointed to a New York Times article that noted the existence of two mosques "already within several blocks of the proposed [Islamic] center."
But while other folks might draw the conclusion that building an additional mosque just blocks from Ground Zero is a needless exercise in dividing New Yorkers over a highly sensitive matter, Klein ran in the exact opposite direction, suggesting that logical consistency would compel mosque opponent Newt Gingrich to want to "close those suckers down"?
"[T]his is further evidence of the true nature of this squabble: a particularly sleazy form of Nativist electoral politics," Klein insisted. [click here for a related post by Brent Baker]
Opposition to building a mosque near Ground Zero really sent Time's Joe Klein into a tirade. In a Monday night post on the magazine's “Swampland” blog, Klein began: “Shame on all those Republicans salivating over President Obama's support for the Cordoba Islamic Center...”
Then he got personal, condemning “slimeball politics” has he slimed Newt Gingrich: “This is slimeball politics, pure and simple, except for when it descends into outright religious bigotry – which seems to be what happens every time Newt Gingrich opens his mouth.” Klein disparaged Gingrich as a “demented, anger-infused doofus” – all before proving, as if that weren't already established, he didn't care about offering any reason as he simply trashed Gingrich as “a jerk.”
And liberals say talk radio and the Fox News Channel are lowering the level of political discourse.
While teasing an upcoming report on President Obama campaigning for Democrats on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Chris Wragge touted: "...plunging poll numbers haven't stopped the President from raking in millions at fund raisers across the country."
Later, White House correspondent Chip Reid observed: "You know, the President's approval rating is only 44%, but he is still quite popular with the party's base and he's using that clout to raise millions of dollars for fellow Democrats." Reid went on to declare: "President Obama and the Democratic Party are managing to raise big bucks in the hope of retaining control of Congress. The Democratic National Committee is committing $50 million to help candidates in 2010, $20 million in cash, and $30 million to get out the vote."
A campaign sound bite was played of the President attacking Republicans: "We do not fear the future. We shape the future. That's part of what this election's about. The other side wants you to be afraid of the future." Reid concluded: "President Obama is doing six fund-raisers over three days in five states. By week's end, he'll have raised over $56 million this campaign season."
Only at the end of his report did Reid briefly notice the money raised by the GOP: "Now, Republicans are also raking in the cash this campaign season. The Republican Governors Association, for example, has brought in $58 million since President Obama came into office."
There is a new media meme rearing its ugly head in the many discussions of the Ground Zero Mosque. A number of journalists seem to be suggesting that if critics oppose the construction of the Mosque, they should also be incensed by the presence of strip clubs, bars, and an off-track betting location in the area.
"Just How 'Hallowed' is the Ground Near Ground Zero?" asks Time Magazine's Madison Gray. "New York Doll's Gentleman's Club, and the Pussycat Lounge are two strip clubs that sit within a block of Ground Zero, but are not seen as a threat to the land's hallowed nature," Gray added. "So it seems to some, freedom of religion might be a problem, but a $10 lap dance is not."
Gee, could it have anything to do with the fact that pole dancers didn't fly planes into the twin towers? For some, the right to build a mosque and the move's moral implications are two distinct issues, and $10 lap dances have exactly nothing to do with either.
Rather than focus on the rightness of building a mosque near Ground Zero, or investigating the potential funding of the construction, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday spent an entire interview with Harold Ford Jr. focusing on how it could damage the Democratic Party.
Stephanopoulos began the segment by asserting, "They really hope this goes away at the White House."
Talking to the former Democratic Congressman, the GMA co-host highlighted Barack Obama's comments on the issue and speculated, "But, is this something that's going to linger through November or go away with- once everyone's back from Labor Day break?" [MP3 audio here.]
NBC's Matt Lauer, invited on former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Freedom Works' Matt Kibbe to discuss the Ground Zero mosque controversy and claimed that since the group behind the mosque existed in Manhattan before the World Trade Center attack, questioned: "So because of 9/11, do they have to move further away? Do they have to go elsewhere?" Armey, who was on with Kibbe to promote their new book Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, responded to the Today show co-anchor "that because you have the right to do something doesn't make it the right thing to do" and pointed out to Lauer that those behind the mosque should be more "responsive to the concerns that are being raised."
The following is the full interview with Armey and Kibbe as it was aired on the August 17 Today show:
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered a "Special Comment" in which he invoked Nazi Germany and suggested that blocking construction of a mosque near Ground Zero could be the first of a "thousand steps" toward another holocaust. He also hinted at a moral equivalence between the Islamic Empire’s conquests and America’s expansion into the lands of Native Americans as he attempted to discredit former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s concerns about the choice of "Cordoba House" as the original name planned for the mosque as being intentionally symbolic of a Muslim victory at Ground Zero.
After starting his "Special Comment" by quoting Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous words about the Holocaust of World War II, he at first tried to make his rant sound more moderate as he contended that, "I make no direct comparison between the attempts to suppress the building of a Muslim religious center in downtown Manhattan and the unimaginable nightmare of the Holocaust." He added: "Such a comparison is ludicrous – at least, it is now."
But the Countdown host was still alarmist enough to fear the mosque controversy could lead in that horrific direction. Olbermann: "Niemoller was not warning of the Holocaust. He was warning of the thousand steps before a holocaust became inevitable. If we are at merely the first of those steps again today, it is one step too close."
Harry Reid may have deserted Pres. Obama over the Ground Zero mosque, but PBO can count on at least one stalwart defender: Norah O'Donnell.
On today's Morning Joe, the MSNBC "correspondent" declared that the prez is deserving of praise for his position. Then, dancing a quantum leap further, O'Donnell accused mosque opponents of acting "like the people who attacked America and killed 3,000 people."
Ironically, just minutes earlier Mike Barnicle and Joe Scarborough were heaping scorn on Newt Gingrich for having said that the mosque has no more right to be built near Ground Zero than would a Nazi site near the Holocaust Museum or a Japanese one next to Pearl Harbor. The pair were horrified by Newt's analogy. But when Norah compared mosque opponents to the 9-11 murderers, Mike and Joe were peep-less.
As President Obama struggled to step back from what the New York Times called a “strong defense” of the Ground Zero Mosque proposal, Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg felt the president’s pain in a Sunday "Political Memo" article, arguing that his shifting stands on the issue betray that this debate “is riskier for him than for his predecessors.” Stolberg wrote this is because his enemies want to live in a white, Christian-dominated country:
From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, "a new beginning."
But his "new beginning" has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents.
Dan Harris, who last year gave credence, by including their attacks in his stories, to those who wished to discredit the Tea Party as “actually largely orchestrated by people fronting for corporate interests” and smeared participants as “driven, in part, by a refusal to accept a black President,” on Monday night read from the same playbook in maligning the motivations of those opposed to building a mosque near Ground Zero.
Harris began his World News story with “how this issue is creeping into campaigns all over the country” and “today conservatives were turning up the volume against the planned Muslim community center.” He soon arrived at:
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 11th.
That led into a soundbite from Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, followed by a bite from Republican Congressman Peter King, a mosque opponent. Harris, however, then concluded with how more enlightened Republicans realize King's misdirection:
On Monday's Morning Joe, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski went out of their way to defend President Obama's Friday statement defending the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Brzezinski cooed that the President "did the right thing by saying what he said." Scarborough labeled the remark "non-controversial," and later stated the controversy over the mosque was a "wedge issue" [audio clip available here].
As NewsBusters' Noel Shepard reported, the former Florida congressman turned MSNBC anchor blasted Newt Gingrich for his barrage against the President for his defense of the mosque. Earlier in the broadcast, just after the top of the 7 am Eastern hour, Brzezinski related her personal anecdote about discussing the issue over her recent vacation, and went right into her "right thing" defense of the President's stance.
Scarborough replied to this by berating Gingrich, in an early preview of his later attack:
Subbing for Ed Schultz on MSNBC this evening, Cenk Uygur suggested that the roughly 70% of Americans who oppose the Ground Zero mosque are "ignorant." Uygur was debating the mosque matter with Republican strategist and former Newt staffer David Winston. Winston suggested that the people behind the mosque could, in light of the overwhelming oppposition of Americans to the plan, show sensitivity by agreeing to site it elsewhere.
That provoked Cenk's snide insult, which, as you'll see, actually revealed his own lack of knowledge on the subject . . .