Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday Defended the building of a mosque near Ground Zero as a monument to tolerance. Talking to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, he proclaimed, "This is a country founded on the notion of religious freedom. What better way to say they [the terrorists] haven't won?"
Ingraham decried the plan for being so close to the site of 9/11 terrorist attack: "And I say the terrorists have won with the way this has gone down. 600 feet from where thousands of our fellow Americans were incinerated in the name of political Islam?"
This prompted the ABC co-host to chide, "In the name of militant, radical Islam, not in the name of Islam."
Deborah Norville, a former co-anchor of NBC's Today, also appeared and strenuously disagreed with Stephanopoulos.
Pointing out that a Greek Orthodox Church destroyed on 9/11 has had trouble rebuilding, she contrasted, "And, yet, a mosque, with no presence in the area, has been given the green light by getting the landmark status of this building rejected. A lot of people look at that and go, where are our priorities?"
This logic seemed to give Stephanopoulos pause. (His father is a Greek Orthodox priest.) He conceded, "That's a good point. I'm all for getting St. Nicholas up again. No question about it."
A transcript of the August 4 segment, which aired at 8:12am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Time now for our Morning mix, where we tackle the topics everybody is buzzing about. This week, uproar over that decision to build a mosque at Ground Zero. Mommy wars. Should breast feeding be mandatory? One super model thinks so. And why is Sarah Palin is happiest person in Alaska this morning? Levi is out of the picture. Joining me to talk about all this, Fox News contributor, Laura Ingraham. Also, the author of the new, number one New York Times bestseller The Obama Diaries. and Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville. And let me talk about the decision to build a mosque. The clearance came yesterday, Laura. And this has created such passion here in New York City.
LAURA INGRAHAM: There's a disconnect, George, between the elites and the way they think about this. And, I think, most New Yorkers and most of the country. I know Michael Bloomberg was out there saying, our values need to be properly represented to the world. And if this mosque isn't built, what is that going to say? The terrorists have won. And I say the terrorists have won with the way this has gone down. 600 feet from where thousands of our fellow Americans were incinerated in the name of political Islam? And we're- and we're supposed to be- we're supposed to be considered intolerant if we're not cheering this?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, what- But, what- In the name of militant, radical Islam, not in the name of Islam. And what better- This is a country founded on the notion of religious freedom. What better way to say they haven't won?
INGRAHAM: We don't have to prove anything to anyone, I don't think.
DEBORAH NORVILLE: Here's the point. There is a point, George. There's a church that was buried when the second tower came down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: St. Nicholas Church. A Greek Orthodox church.
NORVILLE: St. Nicholas church. A Greek Orthodox church. That church has run into every conceivable impediment. And in nine years that this church, this place of worship has not been able to get the port authority and other agencies to get them the green light to rebuild. And, yet, a mosque, with no presence in the area, has been given the green light by getting the landmark status of this building rejected, a lot of people look at that and go, where are our priorities?
STEPHANOPOULOS: [Pauses] That's a good point. I'm all for getting St. Nicholas up again. No question about it.
INGRAHAM: Yeah! Come on, Greek Orthodox . But, it's a finger in the eye, I think, of New York. New York is coming back. You know, we hope. And it's vibrant, economically. A lot of stuff happening downtown. This is sacred ground. Okay? And I don't think people across the country are protesting.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ground Zero is sacred ground. The actual Ground Zero.
INGRAHAM: This is 600 feet. I think the legitimate question to ask, George, is why? Why do they want to build a $100 million, 15-story mosque, Islamic center? Why? Why there? And no one's protesting it around the country, building mosques. I don't think- I don't think there are big sit ins at mosques. So, I don't think we're intolerant.
NORVILLE: And here's another point: There's no funding for this. This is an idea. But the funding for this, this mosque, this Islamic center, is not in place. They're going to be going to charities and other agencies.
INGRAHAM: Saudi Arabia.
NORVILLE: And the people trying to put this up there. Saying, we're going to be strict about who is allowed to contribute. But, we've seen how agencies and organizations that have contributed to causes, that often times are in support of Muslim issues, sometimes later are found to have terrorist connections.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that means this conversation is not going away for a very long time.