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.
By a wide margin — 66 percent to 29 percent, according to the most recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll — the public is opposed to building that proposed $100 million Islamic cultural center near the site of the destroyed World Trade Towers. This is not a lightly-held opinion: more than half (53%) told ABC news they are “strongly opposed” to building it near Ground Zero, vs. only 14 percent who report being “strongly” in favor. (Scroll to Question 30.)
So in the face of such obvious public sentiment, are the big broadcast networks reflecting such public sentiment in their coverage? Or are journalists implicitly repudiating their viewers by touting accusations that opposition to the mosque is motivated by America’s supposed “Islamophobia”?
To find out, MRC analysts reviewed all 52 stories about the Ground Zero mosque on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from August 14 through September 13 — the first month after President Obama propelled the issue into the headlines with his remarks at a White House dinner.
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.
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."
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:
Defenders of controversial imam Feisal Abdul Rauf have been touting his past efforts in offering counterterrorism advice to the FBI as a way to illustrate his bridge-building intentions. Much like other reports, they tend to gloss over the more controversial aspects of Rauf's statements. But, as is typical with the Ground Zero mosque imam, it can be demonstrated that he is frequently speaking with a forked tongue.
There is no doubt that Rauf has made some questionable and incendiary comments regarding America and her role in the Muslim world. Perhaps these statements fit the imam's overall rhetoric involving U.S. complicity in the attacks of 9/11. As does the following statement to the FBI, which is conveniently omitted from media reports defending Rauf.
Bridge-building imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was giving a crash course in Islam for FBI agents in March of 2003. When asked to clarify such terminology as ‘jihad' and ‘fatwa', Rauf stated (emphasis mine throughout):
"Jihad can mean holy war to extremists, but it means struggle to the average Muslim. Fatwah has been interpreted to mean a religious mandate approving violence, but is merely a recommendation by a religious leader. Rauf noted that the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks could be considered a jihad, and pointed out that a renowned Islamic scholar had issued a fatwah advising Muslims in the U.S. military it was okay to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan."
"This is one of those ever more obnoxious teaching moments that we're getting from the left-wing press," NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell complained on last night's "Hannity" after watching a clip of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell lament that Americans need to be more sensitive to minorities, not for the "burden" to be on Imam Feisal Rauf to assauge concerns about the planned Ground Zero mosque.
Noting that polls show 70 percent of the American people oppose the Park 51 project planned just two blocks from Ground Zero, Bozell argued Mitchell's complaint is just more evidence of the liberal media's "worldview that is completely contrary" and out-of-touch with the American public.
Besides Ground Zero mosque bias, The Media Research Center founder also reacted to NBC's Chuck Todd passing along an unnamed "observer" who told him the 2010 midterms would be the "fear" election in contrast to the 2008 "hope" election:
Newly uncovered audio recorded at a forum in 2006 shows Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque, reaffirming his belief that U.S. 'terrorism' fostered Islamic terrorism. (h/t Ace)
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:
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.
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):
On December 8 of last year, at some point before hitting the "print" button, someone at the New York Times decided that a story about what has since become known as the Ground Zero Mosque needed to be reworked.
Earlier that day, the Times published an online powder-puff piece by reporters Ralph Blumenthal and Sharaf Mowjood about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's GZM plans. The pair's story was revised before it went to print, and the online version was changed ("Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero," with a web page title bar that reads "Muslim Prayers Fuel Spiritual Rebuilding Project Near Ground Zero") to mirror it. It's even puffier.
Several bloggers posted about the pair's online original when it appeared. A few, including Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs and Ben Muessig at The Gothamist, excerpted some or all of the key paragraphs shown on the left below (bold in the third paragraph is mine). On the right is how that segment went to print on December 9 (link is to hard-to-read enlarged scan of that day's front page, where the story's opening paragraphs appeared near its bottom right), and how it currently appears online:
Ground Zero mosque organizer Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been described by the media as a "moderate" and a "bridge-builder." But not too long ago, the same news outlets gave identical labels to a radical Virginia mosque that has been linked to some of the most infamous Islamic terrorist attacks in recent years. And it celebrated in the same terms a "prayer-leader" who is now one of the most wanted Al Queda terrorists in the world.
The Washington Post reported on the Dar al-Hijrah mosque 30 times from Sept. 11, 1983, to Sept. 11, 2001, and the big news stories about the prayer center were its popular summer camp, its charitable activities and its joyful celebrations of Muslim holidays.
But to federal investigators and watchdog groups, the big news about the Dar al-Hijrah mosque was that it was a magnet for some of the top names in terrorism - most recently including the Sept. 11 hijackers and the Fort Hood shooter.
The mosque's former imam, Anwar Al Awlaki has been tied to numerous terror attacks in the U.S., and is now serving as a top Al Qaeda leader in Yemen. Al Awlaki will be shot on sight if he is tracked down by the U.S. military, under an order given by President Obama this past April.
CNN's Rick Sanchez bizarrely wondered on Tuesday's Rick List whether investigating the funding behind the planned mosque near Ground Zero would lead to investigations into Catholic and/or Mormon funding: "If you start going into who is giving money...you've got to go to Rome and start asking where the money is going into Rome....and you have to go the Mormons and ask...what are they doing with their money? [audio clips available here]
Sanchez posed that vaguely morally relativistic question as he interviewed former New York Governor George Pataki during the prime-time edition of his program 14 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour. Before bringing on his guest, the CNN anchor inquired whether the opponents of the proposed Islamic center/mosque had become extreme: "Are those against this Islamic center/mosque in New York City going too far these days? I want to you decide as you look at this new ad that's going to be running on city buses in New York. On one side, as you look at this, you will see that there's a picture of a mosque- on the other side, a shot of a plane that's slamming into the Twin Towers, and it poses this question: why there? The ad is being sponsored by a group that's called The American Freedom Defense Initiative."
After noting former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and current mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for the mosque, Sanchez introduced Pataki and first asked him, "Why are they [Koch and Bloomberg] wrong and why are you right?" After the Republican explained his opposition, the anchor gave his first hint to his later Catholic/Mormon question: "Once you start telling someone you can't worship here because it affects the sensibilities or sensitivities of someone else, you're starting to go down a slippery slope, and then a lot of people would ask- well, which religion is next? Who else are we going to not let worship where they want, how they want?"