Should the Trump administration interact with religious leaders? It depends. New York Times reporter Catie Edmondson went hard against Trump’s supposed anti-Muslim (as opposed to anti-Islamic terrorism) animus in “As Trump Woos Middle Eastern Leaders, Muslim Americans Feel Scorned.”
The White House’s guest list last week for President Trump’s first dinner celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan included a who’s who of diplomats from the Middle East. But the event turned out to be more notable for who apparently was not there: representatives from Muslim American groups.
The reinstatement of the dinner, which has been hosted by three previous presidents, and the departures of some staff members with hard-line views on Islam have left her optimistic that the White House will grant more access to its Muslim supporters.
Edmondson went to the paper’s favorite Muslim pressure group, the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, whose ties to Hamas have been documented in federal court and by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer. Those unflattering details were of course ignored by the paper:
Activists outside the Republican Party do not share that hope.
“There is absolutely zero engagement with the Muslim American community,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Not good, not bad, not indifferent. Zero.” Everything he has said and done, Mr. Hooper said, “has had a tremendously negative impact on Muslim Americans.”
Speaking before Middle Eastern diplomats at last week’s iftar gathering, Mr. Trump reiterated that statement and focused on the summit meeting, calling it “one of the great two days of my life” and giving thanks for the “renewed bonds of friendship and cooperation.”
The remarks were less than convincing for American Muslims.
Mr. Hooper, the Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman, said that for the community to sit at the table with Mr. Trump, it would take a complete repudiation of anti-Muslim remarks, policies and staff members he had appointed.
Yet there are some religious figures the Times would prefer the administration not hang out with: In that same issue, the Times criticized the Trump administration (in the form of Vice President Mike Pence) for meeting with Christians.
The headlines over Elizabeth Dias’s piece were huffy: “At Meeting of Pastors, Pence Wants to Talk Politics.” The online headline: “Pence Reaches Out to Evangelicals. Not All of Them Reach Back.” Dias was critical from the first paragraph on.
In the latest sign of the Trump administration’s outreach to religious conservatives ahead of a critical midterm election, Vice President Mike Pence told a large gathering of pastors Wednesday that the White House would continue to fight for evangelical priorities. He appealed for the community’s continued support, even as his appearance led to complaints that a religious event was being used for political gain.
While the convention has at times had Republican leaders speak, its stated purpose is to focus on evangelism and missionary work. But Mr. Pence mentioned “the president” more than three dozen times in his 30 minute speech.
But the Trump presidency does not inspire lockstep allegiance among evangelicals, and that divide was evident this week in Dallas. On Tuesday, open protest over Mr. Pence’s participation broke out on the convention floor, when some pastors made several motions to prevent the vice president from addressing the group. Some were especially concerned about the administration’s stance on immigration and race, and Mr. Pence’s allegiance to a president who has been accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct.
The Times played the race card again and again against VP Pence.
Dean Inserra, who leads City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., a 1,000-person congregation comprising mostly young people, said that much of the pushback on Mr. Pence’s appearance came from nonwhite pastors. “Right now, the reputation we have is an organization of Trump supporters,” he said in an interview. “It shows the world that we are more of a voting bloc for the GOP, and that is really unfortunate.”