ABC News sure wanted to paint Michael Enright, the 21-year-old charged with stabbing Muslim cab driver Ahmed Sharif in Manhattan, as a bigoted hate crime perpetrator who is the inevitable result of Islamophobic opposition to the mosque near Ground Zero. And the network didn't let the facts get in the way of their agenda – though they were confounded by how he “has a baffling profile” since “he volunteers with a church group that promotes peace and understanding” which “actually support[s] putting that Islamic center down here near Ground Zero.” Sighed Diane Sawyer: “Really confounding, the story of that suspect.”
Sawyer, who made the incident her top story (CBS ran a short item, Katrina-obsessed NBC skipped it and most other news), led the Thursday World News by imparting great meaning: “This might have been a small story in another time, but it's touched on a deeper wave of concern because of all the tension over that mosque and cultural center planned near Ground Zero. At the center of the story, a Muslim cab driver, stabbed two days ago.”
Reporter Jeremy Hubbard also saw a larger significance as he played off the weapon used: “It is the knife attack that's cut deep into a national debate over faith and fear.”
Hubbard, who at least did acknowledge very few criminal acts are targeted at Muslims, soon relayed the spin of those who see anti-Muslim hate: “The attack, some Muslims are certain, was fueled by what they call fearmongering over the Islamic cultural center and mosque planned for this site near Ground Zero. There are three flash points cited by Muslims across the country where the rage is evident...”
Earlier Thursday, on Good Morning America, Hubbard wondered if the stabbing was “proof the rhetoric surrounding the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero has created a heightened fear and prejudice against Muslims.?”
More on Thursday morning coverage in this post by Scott Whitlock: “ABC, CBS: Did 'Heightened Fear and Prejudice' of Ground Zero Mosque Prompt NYC Violence?”
From the ABC World News of Thursday August 26, transcript provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
DIANE SAWYER: Good evening. It was a remarkable moment today in the season of headlines about religious tolerance, and what it is to be Muslim in America. This might have been a small story in another time, but it's touched on a deeper wave of concern because of all the tension over that mosque and cultural center planned near Ground Zero. At the center of the story, a Muslim cab driver, stabbed two days ago. And by his side today, the Mayor of New York. Why? Jeremy Hubbard on the attack and fallout.
JEREMY HUBBARD: It is the knife attack that's cut deep into a national debate over faith and fear.
AHMED SHARIF, STABBING VICTIM: I said, "Please, do not kill me, I am very hard worker. I work very hard."
HUBBARD: Ahmed Sharif – who's driven a cab for 15 years – slashed across the head, neck and shoulders.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: This should never have happened. Violence and being disrespectful to each other is not part of why America was formed.
HUBBARD: The suspect, 21-year-old Michael Enright has a baffling profile. An honors film school student, he volunteers with a church group that promotes peace and understanding. The only clue to possible bias, war journals on him at the time of his arrest. Diaries he filled out during a recent trip to Afghanistan, where he made a college film about U.S. troops serving there. Those journals, police say, talked about Afghans who were ungrateful for the American military presence in their country.
Still, the attack, some Muslims are certain, was fueled by what they call fearmongering over the Islamic cultural center and mosque planned for this site near Ground Zero. There are three flash points cited by Muslims across the country where the rage is evident. A radical church in Gainesville, Florida, gaining worldwide attention for its plan to mark September 11 by burning hundreds of copies of the Koran. Then, there's the mosque in Madera, California, vandalized three times in a week. And Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where hundreds filled city hall, openly hostile over plans for a mega-mosque that some locals fear will breed terrorists. An ABC news poll last year showed that nearly half of Americans held an unfavorable opinion of Islam, many of them believing the religion encouraged violence.
On the other hand, the most recent FBI crime stats show in 2008, there were 123 anti-Islam bias crimes nationwide a number that paled in comparison to at least one other religion [1,055 against Jews]. And even in New York, police say crimes against Muslims are not on the rise, despite what happened to the cabbie who made an appeal for us all to get along.
SHARIF: This is the city of all color, races, all religion, everyone will live here side by side peacefully.
HUBBARD: There is one other note about that suspected stabber that muddies the water even further. That peace group he volunteered with, they actually support putting that Islamic center down here near Ground Zero where we are tonight. The suspected stabber, by the way, is charged with attempted murder as a hate crime, Diane.
SAWYER: Really confounding, the story of that suspect. Thank you, Jeremy Hubbard, reporting from New York tonight.