CNN Distorts Flynn to Appear He Called 'All' Muslims, Islam a 'Cancer'

Over the past couple of weeks on various CNN programs, and as recently as yesterday on CNN's Inside Politics, CNN has been touting two edited clips of retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn which dubiously suggest that the incoming National Security Advisor was claiming that all of Islam or all 1.7 billion Muslims in the world constitute a "cancer."

But in both clips -- from two different speeches -- the parts of the speeches when Flynn referred more specifically to "radical Islam" were omitted from what CNN aired, giving viewers an impression he might have been condemning all Muslims. Ironically, last week, CNN host Wolf Blitzer conceded that Flynn's comments would be fine if he were referring specifically to "radical Islam," apparently without realizing that the words "radical Islam" had simply not been included in either of the clips which were shown on his Wolf show.

Additionally, while Flynn could have used a more careful choice of words in the two speeches in question to make it more difficult for liberals to take him out of context, CNN analysts should have known better than to arrive at the more controversial interpretation of his comments, especially since he has made a number of other appearances -- including on CNN -- in which he more clearly likened "radical Islam" to a "cancer" that includes a portion of the Islamic world, rather than the entire Islamic world.

He also has spoken of his friendship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a secular Muslim, and praised him for giving a high-profile speech last year calling for efforts to undermine radical Islam by more moderate Muslims.

On Tuesday, November 22, Blitzer ominously teased at the top of his Wolf show: "Up first, inflammatory words about Islam from Donald Trump's choice to be his White House National Security Advisor. During a speech back in August, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn compared Islamism to cancer. Listen to this."

Then came a couple of edited clips of Flynn from the same speech:

LIEUTENANT GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN CLIP #1: Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this idea -- this notion of it being a religion.

FLYNN CLIP #2: It's like cancer. I've gone through cancer in my own life. So it's like cancer. And it's like a malignant cancer, though, in this case, and has metastasized.

But an examination of the entire speech finds that, not only did Flynn refer to "radical Islam" at the very beginning of the discussion, but, moments before the clip CNN showed, he had also brought up the words "radical Islam" and recalled that those words appear in the title of his book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, which he was promoting at the time:

We're dealing with a mindset, an ideology, the Islamic ideology, and I, you know, I call it radical, you know, "How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies," that's the subtitle of the book. "The Field of Fight" comes from The Iliad and the Odyssey. "The Field of Fight" is the battlefield, and it's a poem that the warriors used to say before they went into battle, and "How We Can Win the Global Fight Against Radical Islam and Its Allies."

Then came the portion that made up the first clip shown on CNN: "Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this idea -- this notion of it being a religion."

Next came a portion that was cut and not shown on CNN:

And I have a very, very tough time because I don't see a lot of people screaming, "Jesus Christ!" with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, you know, literally axing families on a train. Or like they just killed a couple of police officers with a machete. I mean, it's just unbelievable. So we have a problem.

After this reference to the "problem" of violence perpetrated by some Muslims -- presumably those adhering to the aforementioned "radical Islam" -- Flynn continued: "It's like cancer. I've gone through cancer in my own life. So it's like cancer. And it's like a malignant cancer, though, in this case, that has metastasized."

These two clips had played a number of times on CNN over the previous week with suggestions that "it" was meant to be a general reference to Islam rather than the extreme version which had just been mentioned in the speech.

Returning to Tuesday's Wolf, in a segment with Donald Trump supporter Boris Epshteyn, Blitzer brought up another clip from a different speech and referred to work by CNN.com's Andrew Kaczynski as the CNN host recalled:

I want to get your reaction, Boris, to comments that the K File, our K File -- Andrew Kazcynski and his team -- have now come up with retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn -- who's going to be the President's National Security Advisor at the White House -- very strong words. Speaking of Islamism, he says, it's a "vicious cancer" in the body of all Muslims and has to be "excised."

Blitzer added:

He says that, "We' are facing another 'ism,' Just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism, this is Islamism. It is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised." This is what he said in a speech last August. Those are, you know, going to certainly inflame a lot of people when they hear that.

After Epshteyn responded with suspicions that the words were probably taken out of context, Blitzer admitted that it would be fine to speak thusly if Flynn were speaking specifically of "radical Islam" as he followed up:

But it's one thing -- and I think you'll agree -- to say that radical Islam, Islamic terrorists, that's a cancer that has to be excised. But to lump 1.7 billion people -- most Muslims are decent, hard-working, wonderful people trying to just do the best they can, but to lump this into all of them, that is so, so derogatory.

After Epshteyn complained that CNN's "K File" had been unfair to Trump during the campaign, Blitzer defended his CNN colleagues running the "K File." Blitzer: "But they looked at the whole speech he gave. He spoke for nearly an hour. The video of it is right there. Let me play you another clip, and you'll hear retired Lieutenant General Flynn. Watch this."

Then came a video clip of Flynn speaking the words Blitzer had just read. Flynn:

We are facing another "ism." Just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism, this is Islamism. And it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised. So -- and we should not, again, we should not fear this idea. We should define it clearly, and we should go after it.

The CNN host assumed that the metaphor employed by Flynn meant that all 1.7 billion Muslims in the world have a "cancer" within them, and also did not pick up on the fact that the term "Islamism" is often used to refer to political Islam that uses an authoritarian government to impose Islamic codes on the general population, as the CNN host followed up: "Do you agree with him? Because, you know, you've studied this closely, that this cancer exists inside the body of 1.7 million (sic) Muslims living here in the United States and around the world."

But the clip of Flynn played by CNN omitted a reference to "radical Islamism" that came just a matter of seconds before the clip they cherry-picked for air. Flynn:

But the idea of discrediting the ideology -- we spent 40 years discrediting the ideology of communism. -- 40 years. I mean, I remember, as a kid, talking, you know, about communists, right, in school and what it meant and what we had to do, as a kid.growing up. We can't talk about radical Islamism in our school system. I mean, you'd be thrown out. You'd be suspended. You'd be sent home. And then you as parents with your kids, you'd be, people would be wondering about you. You'd be called names. We can't have that.

Then immediately came the clip that was selectively isolated and shown to CNN viewers where Flynn neglected to repeat the word "radical" as he spoke of "Islamism." Flynn:

We are facing another "ism," just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism. and it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised.

Lieutenant General Flynn notably made two appearances on CNN in July -- once on New Day and once on The Lead -- in which he similarly spoke of "radical Islam" being "cancerous" without any protest from hosts Chris Cuomo or Jake Tapper. From the July 12 New Day, Flynn asserted:

The first thing I think we need to do is we need to clearly identify --  I mean when the President said what -- the President says what does it matter to call something by its name, in this case radical Islamism, that's very true that we have to do that. And then the big issue really is to figure out ways to discredit the ideology that exists within this cancerous form of Islam. And we can actually discredit that ideology, just like we discredited communism, fascism, you know, Nazism over the last century.

And on the July 13, The Lead, Flynn reiterated:

We have to be able to discredit the doctrines of this radical Islamism, discredit this ideology, and we are not allowed to do that right now. ... We're not allowed to go after this "ism," just like we went after communism or Nazism or fascism. ... We should challenge doctrines that are against our way of life. This very cancerous version of radical Islam is against our way of life.

Also of note, in an appearance last year on Al Jazeera, Lieutenant General Flynn also spoke of the difference between "Islamism" as an extreme political movement and the religion of "Islam," and denied being at war with more than a billion Muslims when asked. Flynn:

We are facing and the Islamic world is facing an element within the religion of Islam that is going to change it one way or the other -- and my belief, change it for the bad, for the negative -- if something is not done. ... And if the religious component -- the moderate, you know, somewhat pro-moderate component of Islam actually stands up to it, I believe that it can be defeated.

A back and forth between Flynn and host Mehdi Hasan further expanded on the retired general's views:

MEHDI HASAN, AL JAZEERA: Islam is a religion of one billion plus people, and you're saying you're with war with them. Does that not give ISIL-

RETIRED GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN: Not with a billion plus, not with a billion plus.

HASAN: ISIL will be saying, "Look at that U.S. general on Al Jazeera. He's saying he's at war with Islam. Come join us and defend Islam." You're going to send recruits their way with language like that.

FLYNN: We are at war with a radical component of Islam. And the way I believe it is that Islam is a -- it's a political ideology based on a religion.

HASAN: Islam is?

FLYNN: That's what I believe, and that's how I-

HASAN: So do you mean Islamism or Islam? I'm confused there.

FLYNN: Islamism, Islamism.

HASAN: Okay, you're not saying the religion of Islam is a political ideology.

On Sunday's Inside Poltics, CNN's John King pushed the same interpretation that Flynn was accusing 1.7 billion Muslims of having a "cancer" within them. At 8:12 a.m. ET, King brought up the issue:

Part of this is the tone you pick, and the sense that right now, the people on the national security team that we know are more hardliners. Listen here -- it would be hard to see Mitt Romney, if he's on the team, how does he sits down with the National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, who, when he's talking about Islamism, says things like this.

Then played an edited clip of Flynn similar to the one used on the Wolf show last week. Flynn:

We are facing another "ism." Just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism, this is Islamism. And it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised.

King repeated the distorted interpretation and fretted:

Essentially every Muslim has this in them, this cancer in them and it has to be excised. That's a very different position than the current administration, to start with, and it would be a very different position from a Mitt Romney. Who you pick as your Secretary of State, when you go around the world, they're going to ask you about things like that.

More thorough transcripts follow:

#From the Sunday, November 27, Inside Politics on CNN:

8:12 a.m. ET

JOHN KING: Part of this is the tone you pick, and the sense that right now, the people on the national security team that we know are more hardliners. Listen here -- it would be hard to see Mitt Romney, if he's on the team, how does he sits down with the National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, who, when he's talking about Islamism, says things like this.

RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN: We are facing another "ism." Just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism, this is Islamism. And it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised.

KING: Essentially every Muslim has this in them, this cancer in them and it has to be excised. That's a very different position than the current administration, to start with, and it would be a very different position from a Mitt Romney. Who you pick as your Secretary of State, when you go around the world, they're going to ask you about things like that.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: That was -- it seems to be, that was Mitt Romney's objection to Trumpism to begin with, right? I mean, this, sort of, what you were saying, xenophobia, the trickle down racism. And we have seen from Flynn -- I mean, Flynn and Trump, Flynn has been his main advisor in terms of how he talks about and thinks about foreign policy, how he thinks about Islam. And this idea it isn't a narrow fight in the way that Obama thinks about defeating ISIS, it's more of this global clash of civilization, and that is something new and certainly a different tone than we've seen from Obama, than we've seen from Bush.

#From the Tuesday, November 22, Wolf show on CNN:

1:00 p.m. ET

WOLF BLITZER: Up first, inflammatory words about Islam from Donald Trump's choice to be his White House National Security Advisor. During a speech back in August, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn compared Islamism to cancer. Listen to this.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN CLIP #1: Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this idea -- this notion of it being a religion.

FLYNN CLIP #2: It's like cancer. I've gone through cancer in my own life. So it's like cancer. And it's like a malignant cancer, though, in this case, and has metastasized.

BLITZER: We're going to talk about Flynn's comments with a representative from the Trump campaign in a few moments.

(...)

1:05 p.m.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction, Boris, to comments that the "K File," our "K File" -- Andrew Kazcynski and his team -- have now come up with retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn -- who's going to be the President's National Security Advisor at the White House -- very strong words. Speaking of Islamism, he says, it's a "vicious cancer" in the body of all Muslims and has to be "excised."

He says that, "We' are facing another 'ism,' Just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism, this is Islamism. It is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised." This is what he said in a speech last August. Those are, you know, going to certainly inflame a lot of people when they hear that.

[BORIS EPSHTEYN]

But it's one thing -- and I think you'll agree -- to say that radical Islam, Islamic terrorists, that's a cancer that has to be excised. But to lump 1.7 billion people -- most Muslims are decent, hard-working, wonderful people trying to just do the best they can, but to lump this into all of them, that is so, so derogatory.

[EPSHTEYN]

But they looked at the whole speech he gave. He spoke for nearly an hour. The video of it is right there. Let me play you another clip, and you'll hear retired Lieutenant General Flynn. Watch this.

FLYNN: We are facing another "ism." Just like we faced nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism, this is Islamism. And it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised. So -- and we should not, again, we should not fear this idea. We should define it clearly, and we should go after it.

BLITZER: Do you agree with him? Because, you know, you've studied this closely, that this cancer exists inside the body of 1.7 million (sic) Muslims living here in the United States and around the world.

(...)

We're not trying to attack General Flynn, and he did have a distinguished military service rising to the rank as three-star general, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. We're certainly not ridiculing him or anything like that. We're just taking his words and analyzing what he actually said not that long ago in August. He's going to be the President's top national security advisor working in the White House, and I think you agree it's fair for journalists and others to review what he has publicly said.

#From the July 13 The Lead with Jake Tapper:

FLYNN: We have to be able to discredit the doctrines of this radical Islamism, discredit this ideology, and we are not allowed to do that right now. ... We're not allowed to go after this "ism," just like we went after communism or Nazism or fascism. ... We should challenge doctrines that are against our way of life. This very cancerous version of radical Islam is against our way of life.

#From the July 12 New Day on CNN:

FLYNN: The first thing I think we need to do is we need to clearly identify --  I mean when the President said what -- the President says what does it matter to call something by its name, in this case radical Islamism, that's very true that we have to do that. And then the big issue really is to figure out ways to discredit the ideology that exists within this cancerous form of Islam. And we can actually discredit that ideology, just like we discredited communism, fascism, you know, Nazism over the last century.

#From the Stoughton Media Access Corporation:at the Ahavath Torah Congregation, MA, on August 23, 2016:

11:45

I spent almost five years in combat in primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world that our special operations operate within against this enemy -- against this enemy -- primarily against this enemy but in the case of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, you know, in the Levant, whatever you want to call them, there is a disease inside of the Islamic world that has metastasized to the point that they are executing a campaign plan based on a declaration of war by the Islamic State and the leadership of the Islamic State. They have declared war against us -- us being the West, primarily the United States of America.

(...)

35:55

President al-Sisi is a good friend of mine. I've known him for a long time. ... What I felt like we should have done is we should have embraced him when he gave his great intellectually courageous speech at the Al Azhar mosque at the end of about a year and a half ago -- beginning of 2015, end of 2014 ... He stood there and we did not embrace him. We should have embraced him. One of the things that I called for was a new 21st century alliance and principally putting the burden on the backs of the Arab world. And al-Sisi was calling for that. And so there are some steps we're trying to take right now actually in the political process to try to get this idea in place. It will exist. It will exist. Trust me. It will exist because we have to -- the Arab world has to take more responsibility for what's happening, but in order to get there, they're going to need U.S. leadership.

37:30

But the idea of discrediting the ideology -- we spent 40 years discrediting the ideology of communism. -- 40 years. I mean, I remember, as a kid, talking, you know, about communists, right, in school and what it meant and what we had to do, as a kid.growing up. We can't talk about radical Islamism in our school system. I mean, you'd be thrown out. You'd be suspended. You'd be sent home. And then you as parents with your kids, you'd be, people would be wondering about you. You'd be called names. We can't have that.

We are facing another "ism," just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism. and it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet, and it has to be excised.

#Speaking to ACT! for America in Dallas, Texas, in August 2016:

11:05

We got a lot of enemies these days, and one of them -- one of them is ourselves actually because, you know, sort of, you know, whatever you want to say, however you want to get involved, and, frankly, I really, I'm just deeply honored that you would show up here tonight to at least learn a little bit about what is going on -- what's going on in our country, what going on in this problem that we definitely have. This is a big, big problem, this problem of radical Islamism.

(...)

23:30

We're dealing with a mindset, an ideology, the Islamic ideology, and I, you know, I call it radical, you know, "How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies," that's the subtitle of the book. "The Field of Fight" comes from The Iliad and the Odyssey. The "Field of Fight" is the battlefield, and it's a poem that the warriors used to say before they went into battle, and "How We Can Win the Global Fight Against Radical Islam and Its Allies." Islam is a political ideology. It is a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this idea -- this notion of it being a religion.

And I have a very, very tough time because I don't see a lot of people screaming, "Jesus Christ!" with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, you know, literally axing families on a train. Or like they just killed a couple of police officers with a machete. I mean, it's just unbelievable. So we have a problem. It's like cancer. I've gone through cancer in my own life. So it's like cancer. And it's like a malignant cancer, though, in this case, that has metastasized.

#From Head to Head with Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera:

4:25

FLYNN: We are facing and the Islamic world is facing an element within the religion of Islam that is going to change it one way or the other -- and my belief, change it for the bad, for the negative -- if something is not done. But they have grabbed hold of this religion, and they are using it in a very, very dangerous way. And if the religious component -- the moderate, you know, somewhat pro-moderate component of Islam actually stands up to it, I believe that it can be defeated.

MEHDI HASAN, AL JAZEERA: Just on the phraseology, when you say you've been at war with Islam, that's not helpful a language, is it? That gives ISIL-

FLYNN: No, no, I've had -- I've had arguments, I've sat with individuals-

HASAN: Islam is a religion of one billion plus people, and you're saying you're with war with them. Does that not give ISIL-

FLYNN: Not with a billion plus, not with a billion plus.

HASAN: ISIL will be saying, "Look at that U.S. general on Al Jazeera. He's saying he's at war with Islam. Come join us and defend Islam." You're going to send recruits their way with language like that.

FLYNN: We are at war with a radical component of Islam. And the way I believe it is that Islam is a -- it's a political ideology based on a religion.

HASAN: Islam is?

FLYNN: That's what I believe, and that's how I-

HASAN: So do you mean Islamism or Islam? I'm confused there.

FLYNN: Islamism, Islamism.

HASAN: Okay, you're not saying the religion of Islam is a political ideology.

FLYNN: It is a political ideology based on a religion. So when I say I've been at war with Islam, I mean I've sat down with members of al-Qaeda, members of the Taliban that are my age, very well-educated guys, and asked them: "Why? What is it that's going wrong somewhere that we're fighting each other? What is your excuse?" And if the excuse is, "Well, the West is bad," you know, "The Jews of Israel are bad," that's not a good excuse.

HASAN: A lot of terrorism experts who have sat down with these guys, they say, actually, these guys are political, these guys are, as you say yourself, they are a political group using the religion as cover.

FLYNN: I don't agree. The guys that are the serious leaders of these groups absolutely believe that their version of Islam is the right version, is the correct version.


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