'Morning Joe' Gives Rep. Keith Ellison Generous Coverage, Fails to Feature Other Side of Issue

On Friday in its 7 a.m. Eastern hour, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" headlined Thursday's congressional hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims – but only played clips of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim-American who represents only one side of the issue. The show then interviewed him for nine minutes, a lengthy interview for one person on the morning show.

While Ellison received some tough questions, no clips were played of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who is chairing the hearings, nor of Melvin Bledsoe or of Abdirizak Bihi, witnesses who testified about loved ones who were radicalized by Islamic extremists. Bihi's nephew joined a Somali Islamic militia while Bledsoe's son allegedly shot up an armed forces recruiting center in Arkansas.

Later on in the 8 a.m. Eastern hour of the show, "Morning Joe" hosted liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson to discuss the hearings. Robinson dismissed King's hearings in his March 11 column entitled "A Modern-Day Witch Hunt."

(Video after the break.)

In two hours, the show had welcomed two liberal guests but provided no guests to represent King's viewpoint.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski provided a warm welcome for Ellison to begin the interview. "Your testimony was gripping," she told the congressman. "Do you think you were heard yesterday?"

Jon Meacham provided an odd angle, identifying himself as a "white Southern Christian" and proclaiming that he wanted certain fringe Christian groups, such as abortion clinic assassins and anti-government militia,  to be investigated by Congress. "I want there to be a lot of attention to those who are on the extreme of my cultural and religious traditions. Talk about why your reaction to these hearings is so strong, given that context," he pressed Ellison.

Both Scarborough and Ellison ridiculed the notion of the "Ground Zero mosque." Scarborough mocked it as "the quote 'Ground Zero mosque'," adding that it was not a mosque, but a community center. Ellison chimed in that it was not even at Ground Zero, since it was planned to be two blocks away.

A transcript of the questions from the interview, which aired on March 11 at 7:11 a.m. EST, is as follows:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But this story as well out of Washington. New York congressman Peter King declaring his controversial hearing into Muslim radicalization a success, while critics are slamming it as an outrage. During four hours yesterday, the House committee heard testimony from several witnesses including Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, who broke down when he described the actions of a Muslim paramedic who died while responding to the 9/11 attacks.


BRZEZINSKI: Congressman, thank you very much for being on the show this morning. Your testimony was gripping. Do you think you were heard yesterday?


SCARBOROUGH: So what did Peter King do wrong, congressman? What would you have had him do to better answer the question of how do we prevent the rise of domestic terrorism in the United States, the way we see it like for instance, in Great Britain?


JON MEACHAM: Congressman, it's Jon Meacham. I'm a white Southern Christian. A lot of white Southern Christians have done...I want the FBI following militias. I want there to be hearings into abortion clinic violence. I want there to be a lot of attention to those who, on the extreme of my cultural and religious traditions. Talk about why your reaction to these hearings is so strong, given that context.

Rep. KEITH ELLISON (DFL-Minn.): Well because look – you cannot blame Christians for the Ku Klux Klan or the abortion clinic bombers. And you cannot – and it's just wrong to say "we're going to have a hearing about radicalization of the Christians." That's ridiculous and absurd. But that's exactly what Congressman King did yesterday. I think if you want to talk about the Ku Klux Klan, let's have a hearing about the Ku Klux Klan. Let's have a hearing about al-Qaeda and what they're trying to do. They have blood of all Americans on their hands, including Muslims. So let's do it that way. There is a lot more to be gained by targeting the real offenders. Here's the thing. We need to make sure that all communities know that they're not the target, but the criminals, maybe within their own communities, are the target. The only way you get community engagement is by engaging the community and building trust.  

MEACHAM: So sir, is this a matter of vocabulary?


MEACHAM: If Congressman King had called it


MEACHAM: Well then –

ELLISON: It's not a matter of vocabulary. It's a matter of how do you build trust with a community so that you can enlist their help to deal with the criminal element, the terrorist element that may be existing within their community. It's a ma – you gotta make sure the community knows it's not the target. The terrorist is the target. And you can't do that if you look like you're persecuting a whole community. It is absolutely not semantics or vocabulary. These are real differences. And Sheriff Lee Baca understood those differences. People in the FBI understand these differences. People in the Minneapolis Police Department understand these differences. But Peter King doesn't get it.

RICHARD HAAS, President, Council on Foreign Relations: Congressman, it's Richard Haas here. I agree that you can't look like you're persecuting an entire community, but there is a fact, I think, that there is a disproportionate problem in the Muslim community, particularly around the world, and we want to prevent that happening in the United States. Noone is saying that a majority, or even a significant number of American Muslims are a problem, but there is a recruiting problem. There is a radicalization problem. So (Crosstalk).


PAT BUCHANAN: Congressman, as you said, we are at war with al-Qaeda. Is it not true that al-Qaeda is targeting individuals in the Muslim community in the United States for recruitment, and is it not valid when you consider that all but two of some plotters that we've captured in the War on Terror in the United States are Muslim? Is it not true that there's a particular susceptibility inside your community to al-Qaeda's recruitment? I mean they're not recruiting, they're not recruiting in the Catholic community, they're recruiting in the Muslim community, and it seems to me this is Peter King's point.


SCARBOROUGH: Obviously this summer, everybody at this table roundly denounced what happened with the Ground Zero –

BRZEZINSKI: The quote "Ground Zero mosque."

SCARBOROUGH: The quote "Ground Zero mosque." It wasn't even a mosque.

ELLISON: Or at Ground Zero.

SCARBOROUGH: So we are – community center. We want Muslim Americans to continue to integrate in this country as they have for years. The question is, how do we figure out what Britain has done wrong, and what we're doing right, and how we continue to make sure that we don't see a rise because, as you know, history always moves forward. At some point, we may have a problem with this.


SCARBOROUGH: Is asking this question, though, not mine, but asking the question of is there a problem of domestic, possibility of domestic violence in the Muslim-American community – is that question denigrating in and of itself?


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