Wrapping up the New York Times' coverage of Rep. Peter King’s Congressional hearings Thursday on Islamic radicalism in the United States:
The front-page New York Times story Friday on King’s hearings strangely featured not a hard news story, but a quasi-review by television-beat reporter Alessandra Stanley, “Terror Hearing Puts Lawmakers in Harsh Light.”
One member of Congress broke down and cried. Another was so incensed that she waved a pocket-size copy of the Constitution and declared, “This breathing document is in pain.” And there were so many angry charges of McCarthyism and countercharges of “political correctness” that it sometimes seemed that the topic at hand on Thursday in Washington was the radicalization of the House Homeland Security Committee, not American Muslims.
Why put “political correctness” in delegitimizing quotes but not “McCarthyism”?
But some opponents in Congress who are not committee members chose to warn those who are, notably Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who is one of two Muslims in Congress. Mr. Ellison, who spoke as a witness, tearfully described the sacrifice of Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a volunteer medical technician who died trying to help rescue victims in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 -- pointing out that Mr. Hamdani was wrongly suspected of being part of the plot until his remains were discovered. After he spoke, Mr. Ellison pulled his statement up in front of his face to compose himself.
(National Review threw some cold water on Ellison’s melodrama.)
The actual news coverage of the hearings was relegated to page A15, with Sheryl Gay Stolberg and religion reporter Laurie Goodstein teaming up for “Deep Partisan Rift Emerges in Hearings on U.S. Muslims.”
A Congressional hearing on Thursday addressing homegrown Islamic terrorism offered divergent portraits of Muslims in America: one as law-abiding people who are unfairly made targets, the other as a community ignoring radicalization among its own and failing to confront what one witness called “this cancer that’s within.”
Attacked by critics as a revival of McCarthyism, and lauded by supporters as a courageous stand against political correctness, the hearing -- four hours of sometimes emotional testimony -- revealed a deep partisan split in lawmakers’ approach to terror investigations and their views on the role of mosques in America.
The Times had first softened up King for attacks in Scott Shane’s front-page story on Wednesday, “Pro-I.R.A. Past For Chairman Of Terror Panel.”
It’s certainly fair to bring up King’s past support for the I.R.A., but the front-page placement the day before hearings started looked more like politics than journalism, especially since the paper didn't even front its news story on the actual hearings. And the paper bluntly and immediately labeled the Irish Republican Army “a terrorist group,” which is true but out of character for a newspaper that daintily refuses to apply that accurate label to Hamas or Hezbollah.
For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.
The Hill newspaper reported Tuesday night that King has gotten death threats from overseas, resulting in additional police protection. A nytimes.com search indicates that news did not appear in the Times, either online or in print.
Columnist Nicholas Kristof exhibited his own trademark naivete about the dangers of radical Islam (courtesy of NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein), saying on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning:
I'm sure that at mosques around this country, especially the more radical mosques, this is going to be seen as one more evidence that people are picking on us.
Finkelstein responded: “So Kristof acknowledges the existence in America of ‘radical mosques.’ Isn't that the very proof of the need for inquiry along the lines Peter King is conducting?”
Finally, intelligence reporter Scott Shane came to the defense of a controversial Muslim activist group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” in a Friday morning posting, or CAIR. Shane called “some of the statements about CAIR at the hearing were oversimplified at best” and his characterization of the accusations against CAIR was half-hearted:
Founded in 1994, CAIR has 34 chapters around the country and has focused on combating discrimination and violence against Muslims. It has been dogged by accusations that some of its leaders, including Mr. Awad, have old connections to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, or the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group founded in Egypt that advocates for Islamic government.
Shane evidently couldn’t be bothered to confirm or refute the allegations through his own reporting. Neither did he mention that Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York has criticized "intimate links" by some of the group’s prominent members to the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas.