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.
Instead, she touted, "And Walter Isaacson, who we both know well from the head of the Aspen Institute, was quoted as saying, 'He's consistently denounced radical Islam and terrorism and promoted a moderate and tolerant Islam.'"
However, this doesn't square with Abdul Rauf's September 30, 2001 appearance on 60 Minutes where this exchange occurred:
ED BRADLEY: Are — are — are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?
IMAM ABDUL RAUF: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.
BRADLEY: OK. You say that we’re an accessory?
ABDUL RAUF: Yes.
ABDUL RAUF: Because we have been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.
Given Mitchell's complaints about "inaccurate" statements in the Ground Zero debate, her above quote is sloppy at best.
A transcript of the August 18 segment, which aired at 1:18pm EDT, follows:
ANDREA MITCHELL: And when they speak privately to you Chuck, are they annoyed with Harry Reid for escalating this as a political matter?
CHUCK TODD: You know, they have not been critical of anybody, even privately, on how they've reacted to this because, frankly, they understand that they created a bit of a political problem for everybody else. I've talked to other Democrats outside the White House who believe that the Harry Reid could have handled this differently, who think that maybe Harry Reid invited holding up more opportunities for Republicans to put other Democrats in a position to have to come out with a statement about this, have to deal with this in their own races, because here's a guy who, basically, felt the need to respond to his opponent in Nevada, to respond to Sharron Angle. So if he can respond, then, of course, why can't anybody else who is running for re-election in 2010 respond to their Republican opponent in their district or state? So I think that is where the annoyance I've heard. I have not heard it from the White House because the White House gets it and the President himself said they read polls and know that they put members of their own party in an awkward position. But, this is a case where they feel like, where the President himself felt like he had to speak out on this, because, frankly, the debate was getting- was getting so loud, heated and, maybe, unproductive.
MITCHELL: Getting loud, heated, ugly and inaccurate, in fact. And we're going to set the record straight on some of that coming up.
MITCHELL: We are now learning more, indeed, about the man behind the proposed Islamic center. 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. Here with me now, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Uh, David, you've been looking at this from removed- and also from inside the White House and inside the State Department. And it's extraordinary. This is a man who traveled with- to Doha in 2006 at the worst time in the Iraq war with Karen Hughes from the Bush State Department as an envoy, an unofficial envoy, spoke out after 9/11 in Manhattan.
DAVID IGNATIUS: Andrea, from everything that we can tell about him, he is almost a model of what you want as a moderate Islamic cleric, with credibility among Muslims to be sure, who is prepared to speak out to the United States. I mean, if you were going to design, as a thought experiment, a way to pull people away from al Qaeda and it would be hard to think of somebody more powerful than this who says that the 9/11 attacks were wrong. Working with the United States is right. Speaking out against a violence is an obligation for Muslims. If we're ever going to get out of this mess, if we're going to avoid a war with Muslims around the world, which we all deeply want to do, this is the kind of ally we need and the attacks on him, I have to admit, I don't understand some of them.
MITCHELL: And Walter Isaacson, who we both know well from the head of the Aspen Institute, was quoted as saying, "He's consistently denounced radical Islam and terrorism and promoted a moderate and tolerant Islam. That's why I find it a shame that his good work is being undermined by this inflamed dispute. He's the type of leader to be celebrating in America and not undermining." And this at a critical time. Is it your sense, and I know you had a meeting at the White House on the national security meeting a week or so ago and were at the State Department involved with Hillary Clinton. So, your sense from the President and his comments that he is trying to reach out because of what is coming up in the Muslim world? He's got in the balance Israeli and Pakistani negotiations just on a tipping point trying to get something going for the first week in September before he has to go to the UN for the annual speech, the third week in September. This is a very critical moment.
IGNATIUS: My sense, Andrea, with the President ten days ago, and I have to stress this was before his intervention at the Ground Zero mosque was that he wants to reanimate these themes that are prominent in his presidency, both notably in his Cairo speech, that he's trying to reach out to the Muslim world and make progress of his very difficult issues of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations, that he is signaling a willingness, indeed a desire to reopen the negotiations with Iran about the nuclear program. These are themes that the President was really hitting hard and I think it's- but in the case of Iran, it's a real last attempt before we get on an inexorable clock with Iran heading towards nuclear weapons capability, see some other way to go.