The New York Times' Gardiner Harris came up with a Trump-centric spin on an annual report about religious persecution worldwide, which this year focused on the terrorists of ISIS, in his Wednesday report “Islamic State Criticized As Persecutor In U.S. Report.” The text box: “Singling out ISIS in a study of threats to religious freedom.” Harris had some other threats in mind: The Trump administration, for one, both for attacks on Muslims and for failing to bring more in as refugees.
As if piling on President Trump, already under fire for his response to the events in Charlottesville, Harris wasted no time turning his rhetorical fire from ISIS to America. Here’s the lead paragraph:
The Trump administration criticized the Islamic State on Tuesday for its persecution of religious minorities but made no mention of a recent rise in attacks against Muslims in the United States, as it released the government’s annual accounting of religious persecution around the world.
[Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] went on to declare that the Islamic State was “clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled.” The comments were part of the formal release of the International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, an annual accounting required by Congress of threats to religious freedom around the world.
But never mind those atrocities; the real story was Trump, and a “spike” in violence against Muslims in the United States that the journalist Gardiner mentions but doesn’t bother to substantiate in his anti-Trump news story:
Missing from Tuesday’s report was any mention of a spike in acts of violence and bigotry against Muslims in the United States, widely reported in the wake of last year’s election. Nor did the report take note of President Trump’s proposal as a candidate to ban the entry of all Muslims into the United States, or his subsequent orders to bar the entry of refugees or citizens from seven (later reduced to six) predominantly Muslim countries.
The report listed threats to religious freedom in 199 countries, but the United States was not on the list.
“We do not rate ourselves,” said Ambassador Michael Kozak of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. In a press briefing after Mr. Tillerson spoke, he added, “I would put our record on religious freedom up against anybody in the world.”
The report recognized that the resettlement of refugees suffering religious persecution was “a vital tool” but failed to acknowledge that the Trump administration had severely restricted the entry of all refugees into the United States.
“Every year, unfortunately, there are way, way more refugees than any country can take,” Mr. Kozak said when asked about the seeming incongruity.
Why is Harris so hostile about such a seemingly bipartisan concern as religious freedom? Maybe because certain political groups are paying attention:
Threats against Christians abroad have been a focus of concern for conservatives in the United States, and in May Mr. Trump released a statement denouncing the “merciless slaughter” of Christians in Egypt.
Well, at least the Times didn’t put the phrase “religious freedom” in scare quotes:
Mr. Tillerson’s decision in March to skip the traditional personal announcement of an annual human rights report, led to widespread condemnation. Mr. Tillerson has appeared less comfortable with the public diplomacy part of his job. Both Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have said that the protection of religious freedom is a priority.