Author Reza Aslan falsely claimed that the Gospel of Mark contains no messianic claim by Jesus, but CNN's Piers Morgan asked him no tough questions and instead promoted his new book on Jesus in a slobbering interview on Monday.
Morgan mocked Fox News's interview of Aslan: "Reza, I mean, what were you thinking as that interviewer was asking those ridiculous questions?" Three times Morgan touted that Aslan's book was number one on Amazon.com.
"I mean, it's obviously worked pretty well for you in a sense they must be talking about, you're number one on Amazon. It must be – it must be a good feeling," Morgan insisted.
What Morgan failed to ask about were Aslan's claims about the Bible and Christianity. For instance, as NewsBusters reported, Aslan made a pants-on-fire claim about the Gospel of Mark in an interview with NPR, where he said Jesus made no messianic claim throughout the entire Gospel. (Mark 14:62 refutes that.)
Monday night wasn't Aslan's first opportunity to promote himself on CNN. In a special to CNN's religion blog, he also framed Jesus as a "Jewish peasant and revolutionary," and said the Bible is "replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions." In his NPR interview he made clear that the Gospels weren't his primary source for Jesus.
Yet Morgan made no time to flesh out these claims, but simply kissed up to Aslan and his book:
"You should be thanking Fox News, really, because they have spring-boarded you to number one best-selling book in the country. Many congratulations. It's a terrific read. You don't need any hype from me, it's already doing it itself. So good to talk to you."
Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on Piers Morgan Live on July 29 on 9:19 p.m. EDT:
PIERS MORGAN: Now I want to turn to the interview that everyone is still talking about. But not in a good way. Listen to a bit of what happens when author and scholar, Reza Aslan, stops by Fox News to promote his new book on Jesus.
LAUREN GREEN, Fox News anchor: This is an interesting book. Now I want to clarify, you're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?
ASLAN: Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it's not that I'm just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions. But I have been obsessed with Jesus –
GREEN: But it still begs the question, though -- it still begs the question, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?
ASLAN: Because it's my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That's what I do for a living.
(End Video Clip)
MORGAN: The book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," reached number one on Amazon today. As you can see the interview went pretty well from Reza Aslan's point of view. And he joins me now. Reza, I mean, what were you thinking as that interviewer was asking those ridiculous questions?
ASLAN: Well, look, I mean, truly I was kind of embarrassed. I mean, there's nothing more distasteful than an academic having to, like, trot out his credentials. I mean, you really come off as a jerk when you do that. But it was very hard not to keep mentioning that I'm actually qualified to write this book so let's talk about the book instead.
MORGAN: Yes. I mean, it's obviously worked pretty well for you in a sense they must be talking about, you're number one on Amazon. It must be – it must be a good feeling. Tell me this. Cut to the book itself. What is the premise of the book and what is the conclusion that you reached?
ASLAN: Well, the book is a historical biography of a man named Jesus of Nazareth. It tries to sort of separate him from the Christology that arose around him and the generations that followed. And it's really an attempt to figure out what can we know about this man? And although we can know very little about him, we know a lot about the world in which he lived.
So I just take what little we know about him, that he was a Jew, that he started a Jewish movement, and that he was crucified as a state criminal as a result of it. Put in the world in which he lived and the picture that arises of Jesus is of a far more revolutionary figure than the kind of detached celestial spirit that I think most people think Jesus was.
MORGAN: Taking the Fox interview as the basis for this next question, but do you think it would be helpful generally if more Muslims read more about Christianity, more Christians read more about the Muslim faith?
ASLAN: I think for sure. I mean, look, knowledge is key to figuring out who we are and how we feel about each other. But I just want to say, like, I completely understand where Lauren Green is coming from. I kind of feel bad for her. I mean, the truth of the matter is that when you write about religion like I do, you're writing about something that people take very seriously, and I understand that a lot of people, whether it's Muslims or Christians or Jews or what have you, feel sometimes that academics like myself are attacking their faith, attacking their very identity.
But nothing can be further from the truth. I mean, as I've said repeatedly, you know, the most important people in my life are Christian, my wife and my mother. And Christianity is a very important religion. I have no interest in attacking it. And frankly, this is not a book about Christianity, because Jesus was a Jew. It's a book about Judaism.
MORGAN: Tell me, Reza, about your own religious journey, if you like, that you got in your life. Because it's quite interesting, isn't it?
ASLAN: Yeah. I was – you know, came from a Muslim family, came to the United States in 1979 at a time in which it wasn't such a great idea to be a Muslim, in the '80s. You know, not much has changed, I guess, nowadays. But really when I was 15, I heard the gospel message for the first time, and it had a profound effect on me. Converted to evangelical Christianity, spent the next three or four years of my life really preaching the gospel.
And then when I went to a Catholic Jesuit institution, Santa Clara University, it really began an academic in-depth study of the New Testament, with my Jesuit professors, all of a sudden I realized that there was this distance between the historical figure that I was learning about and the Christ that I was introduced to in church.
And although I really kind of went away from the Christian faith and really went back to the faith and practice of my forefathers, I became incredibly interested in Jesus, the man, and spent the next 20 years studying him, really trying to mold my life after him. I mean he truly is my hero.
MORGAN: Well, Reza, it's good to talk to you. And the book is called "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." You should be thanking Fox News, really, because they have spring-boarded you to number one best-selling book in the country. Many congratulations. It's a terrific read. You don't need any hype from me, it's already doing it itself. So good to talk to you.