On Thursday’s Last Word show on MSNBC, host Lawrence O’Donnell trashed conservatives for raising concerns about the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt as the MSNBC host claimed that, "The Muslim Brotherhood is the latest excuse for the right wing to whip up anti-Islamic hysteria, including the old standby that President Obama is secretly a Muslim." Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, who appeared as a guest for the segment, even referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as a "scarecrow," and dismissed concerns about whether a new government might adhere to the peace treaty with Israel as the Democratic Congressman asserted that, "You haven’t seen one Israeli flag. You haven’t seen one."
But, while the overwhelming majority of Egyptian demonstrators may be motivated by a desire for better economic conditions and more freedom, it would be incorrect to claim that there is a complete absence of anti-Israel sentiment. On Sunday, January 30, the NBC Nightly News showed an image of one sign held by a protester that tied then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Israel by placing the Jewish Star of David over his face. And, on Saturday, January 29, ABC's World News Saturday showed a second sign with a similar image of Mubarak with a smaller Star of David on his forehead, as if to attack the Egyptian leader as being too friendly to Israel and Jews.
On the Friday, January 28, NBC Nightly News, correspondent Richard Engel even recounted concerns by some Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood would "hijack" the anti-government movement to take power:
It began with students, workers, people who are unemployed, and then today we saw Islamic groups getting more and more involved. They are by far the most organized people in this country, and there is a fear on the streets of Cairo that this movement could be hijacked by Islamic parties. So far we haven’t seen that happening, and it has just been average Egyptians who’ve been going out and saying they’re tired of corruption, they are tired of living with a poor quality of life. But if this continues and it does topple the regime, there is a very likely possibility that these Islamic groups that have been banned in this country for a long time will make a run for power.
And in a Thursday, February 3, interview on CNN’s Parker-Spitzer, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohammed Morsy defended violence against Israel when he was asked by host Eliot Spitzer if he would "disavow the use of violence against the state of Israel." Morsy answered: "We do not use violence against anyone. What’s going on on the Palestinian land is resistance. The resistance is acceptable by all mankind, and it’s the right of people to resist imperialism."
Also of note, MSNBC"s O’Donnell ironically made his attack on conservatives immediately after noting that National Intelligence Director James Clapper had made the embarrassing gaffe of claiming before Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood is secular as he dismissedi its status as a threat to Egypt.
Below is a complete transcript of the relevant segment from the Thursday, February 10, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC:
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: As we monitor the crisis in Egypt, the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, had to walk back some of his comments today about the Muslim Brotherhood, after being asked by a House committee whether the group was using the chaos to gain power.
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The term "Muslim Brotherhood" is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.
O’DONNELL: A spokesperson later clarified that Director Clapper meant the Mubarak-controlled political system, not the Muslim Brotherhood, has been largely secular. The Muslim Brotherhood is the latest excuse for the right wing to whip up anti-Islamic hysteria, including the old standby that President Obama is secretly a Muslim. Joining me now, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Thank you very much for joining us, Congressman Ellison.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN): Good to be here, Lawrence.
O’DONNELL: Congressman, last night on this program, I had your colleague Steve King of Iowa, and we showed video of him meeting with his constituents where they believe, of course, that President Obama is a Muslim, and they believe he didn’t grow up American. And Steve King would not contradict them, would not enlighten them in any way. I asked him to please go back to those constituents and tell them the truth about the President. I’m not sure he’s going to. Is there any way that you could approach your colleagues out of basic human decency and say, could you please start telling the truth about the President on this?
ELLISON: Let me just tell you I’d be more than happy to help enlighten my colleagues about issues about Islam, about the world in general. I think it is the obligation of every member of Congress to tell the truth, if you know. One of the things that I appreciate about John McCain during the presidential run is when somebody said Senator Obama’s an Arab, he did say, no, he isn’t, not that there’s anything wrong with being one. And that was an honorable thing to do. And I think that any member of Congress who would do less than that is not living up to the standards that the people expect.
O’DONNELL: Congressman, in terms of events in Egypt tonight, I’d like to get your sense of the Muslim Brotherhood and what to expect if they do become part of a power-sharing government. Apparently, at this time, their leaders poll very badly among the Egyptian population. And they seem to represent approximately 20 percent of the people. What would be your anticipation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in a future Egyptian government?
ELLISON: Lawrence, the thing that is so exciting about this movement is that it is a stunning rebuke to al-Qaeda-ism, and it is a stunning rebuke to anyone who would want to impose their will on the people through use of bombs or force or anything like that. Not only that, the people in Tahrir Square, some of them are religious, some of them are not. But this is a demand for dignity, democracy and bread and jobs. It’s exciting. It’s both sexes, different kinds of people, Christian, Muslim, people of all different backgrounds. This is about the people. It has nothing to do with what some sectarian group’s agenda is. You know, this is a scarecrow, this talk about the Muslim Brotherhood. But the most important thing is this is a group of people who are rejecting al-Qaeda-ism, rejecting religious extremism, and saying they want what we already have, which is democracy. And we got to stand on the side of that, Lawrence. I can’t, I urge our leaders in the United States with every fiber of my being to stand unequivocally with the people of Egypt because the people in power now have, are in an unsustainable position. They’re going out no matter what happens. All we can do is be good hand maidens of democracy together with the international community. And, you know, if we treat these people right as they are trying to be what we already are, which is a democratic country which respects the rights of people, they will remember that. If we don’t, they will remember that.
O’DONNELL: Congressman, do you hope that in any future Egyptian government that they will be able to maintain the good and respectful relationship that that country now has with Israel?
ELLISON: Yes, of course. But here’s an interesting thing, Lawrence. If you listen to the protesters in Tahrir Square, they’re not talking about hostilities with any other country. They’re not talking about international agreements. You haven’t seen one Israeli flag. You haven’t seen one. What we hear is they want bread, they want peace, they want freedom, they want dignity, and the last thing those people in that square want to talk to anybody about is getting into hostilities with another country, particularly a nuclear-powered country. I mean, this, we’ve got to keep our mind on what the people are saying. They are saying they want dignity. They don’t want to be, they want to be able to speak their mind. They want to have a choice in leaders who govern them. They want to have some decent economics. They want to be able to be in a situation where they can have some hope and aspiration. This is not about Egypt, I mean, Israel, quite frankly. And I’m quite confident that the people in that square and the people in Tunisia, those folks just want what so many of us in the West take for granted every day, which is to be able to cast a vote, to be able to go to the grocery store, to have a decent job, and to be able to say, you know what, whoever the President is or my representative is, I had a say in either picking him or not.
O’DONNELL: Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
ELLISON: Absolutely, Lawrence. Thank you.