Feisal Abdul Rauf
According to a recent survey by the Arabic online news service Elaph (Arabic version here), 58 percent of Arabs think the construction should be moved elsewhere. And according to a Media Research Center study released last week, 55 percent of network news coverage of the debate has come down on the pro-Mosque side.
The MRC study also found that on the question of whether opposition to the mosque demonstrated a widely held "Islamophobia" among Americans, 93 percent of network news soundbites answered ion the affirmative. In contrast, when asked whether the United States is a "tolerant" or "bigoted" society, 63 percent of Elaph respondents chose the former.
So in the face of such obvious public sentiment, are the big broadcast networks reflecting such public sentiment in their coverage? Or are journalists implicitly repudiating their viewers by touting accusations that opposition to the mosque is motivated by America’s supposed “Islamophobia”?
To find out, MRC analysts reviewed all 52 stories about the Ground Zero mosque on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from August 14 through September 13 — the first month after President Obama propelled the issue into the headlines with his remarks at a White House dinner.
Anchor Anderson Cooper began the segment by asking the two about Soledad O'Brien interview of Rauf, which took place the previous hour. Parker, the "Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and noted conservative commentator," as Cooper called her, endorsed his appearance and went on to characterize the two sides of the debate over the planned Ground Zero mosque. In her view, those who oppose it "were going to sort of be looking for ways to convince yourself that he was...trying to be this, sort of, secret jihadist." On the other hand, the supporters of the mosque "understand that he seemed as a reasonable, rational person who's well-spoken and has something important to say."
Amanpour proceeded to tout that he's now back from an overseas trip “all about interfaith dialogue and trying to reach the moderates,” and he warned, as he did on Wednesday's Larry King Live, that if he doesn't get his way Muslims will murder Americans. Amanpour, however, didn't describe that as a protection racket or suggest he's employing blackmail. Instead, she just paraphrased his spin that his warning -- about his vanity – is “a matter of vital national security” to the U.S.:
He says that this has become a huge international issue, the issue over the Islamic center in Manhattan and also the threatened Koran burning. And so everybody, all over the world, not just here in the United States, is watching. And he felt, and he said to me, that he thought it was a matter of vital national security not to give in or to move that Islamic center.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick played up Imam Feisal Rauf's apparent credentials as a "moderate" Muslim during a report on Wednesday's American Morning. Feyerick omitted using sound bites from Rauf's critics, and only briefly mentioned his controversial remarks about on CBS's 60 Minutes about the 9/11 attacks and his reluctance to condemn Hamas.
The CNN correspondent's report led the 6 am Eastern hour, and was re-broadcast throughout the day on the network. Almost immediately, Feyerick stressed how Rauf is apparently a "voice of moderation" by playing three clips from three who unequivocally endorse him- the State Department's P. J. Crowley, mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal, and Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University. She continued by describing the Islamic cleric as a "Sufi Muslim, at the other end of the Islamic spectrum from the radical theology that feeds groups like al Qaeda."
The Imam in the middle of the Ground Zero mosque controversy finally spoke about the issue Wednesday by publishing a New York Times op-ed without once mentioning the overwhelming public opposition to the location of this Islamic center.
Somewhat curiously, he didn't even refer to last week's poll by the Times finding two-thirds of New York city residents against the building of such a facility two blocks from where radical Islamists killed thousands of innocent people almost exactly nine years ago.
But that didn't stop Feisal Abdul Rauf from putting a happy face on an issue that has deeply saddened much of the nation he is also a citizen of:
There is no doubt that Rauf has made some questionable and incendiary comments regarding America and her role in the Muslim world. Perhaps these statements fit the imam's overall rhetoric involving U.S. complicity in the attacks of 9/11. As does the following statement to the FBI, which is conveniently omitted from media reports defending Rauf.
Bridge-building imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was giving a crash course in Islam for FBI agents in March of 2003. When asked to clarify such terminology as ‘jihad' and ‘fatwa', Rauf stated (emphasis mine throughout):
"Jihad can mean holy war to extremists, but it means struggle to the average Muslim. Fatwah has been interpreted to mean a religious mandate approving violence, but is merely a recommendation by a religious leader. Rauf noted that the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks could be considered a jihad, and pointed out that a renowned Islamic scholar had issued a fatwah advising Muslims in the U.S. military it was okay to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan."
Well, wait a minute.
Noting that polls show 70 percent of the American people oppose the Park 51 project planned just two blocks from Ground Zero, Bozell argued Mitchell's complaint is just more evidence of the liberal media's "worldview that is completely contrary" and out-of-touch with the American public.
Besides Ground Zero mosque bias, The Media Research Center founder also reacted to NBC's Chuck Todd passing along an unnamed "observer" who told him the 2010 midterms would be the "fear" election in contrast to the 2008 "hope" election:
As the summer of 2010 comes to a close, American tempers are dramatically rising over the Ground Zero mosque.
A fine example of the heat this issue is generating occurred on Wednesday's "O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News.
In the left corner was Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. On the right filling in for the usual host was Laura Ingraham.
What ensued was an ideological battle that likely pleased folks on both sides of this contentious debate (video follows with transcript and commentary, h/t our friends at the Right Scoop):
Time magazine's Joe Klein yesterday did what he does best: take one paragraph from a neoconservative's column and blow it out of proportion and out of context in order to go on an extended screed bashing conservatives in general and neocons in particular.
Writing for his magazine's Swampland blog yesterday, Klein addressed Bill Kristol's editorial for the August 30 Weekly Standard print edition entitled, "He's No Muslim, He's a Progressive."
Klein started off with a backhanded compliment:
Well, it's good to learn that there are limits to Bill Kristol's tactical skeevery. He clearly states here that Barack Obama is not a Muslim. No winks, no nods, no gratuitous McConnellesque "If he says he's not, that's okay with me."
With that out of the way, Klein dove into his screed:
Mowjood? As Alana Goodman of the Business and Media Institute reported earlier this month, Sharaf Mowjood is a former lobbyist for the Council on American Islamic Relations, an interest group that strongly supports the mosque. Mowjood coauthored a glowing Dec. 9, 2009 article on the mosque with reporter Ralph Blumenthal and also contributed to a sympathetic story by Barnard August 11 about public relations missteps by the mosque sponsors.
Barnard began with an anecdote about a Rauf lecture in Cairo where the imam (with a voice the Times describes as "soft, almost New Agey") was accused by radical Islamists of being an American agent (a story which of course bolsters Rauf's moderate credentials). Barnard seemingly took it as her mission to rebut charges of extremism against Rauf.
In his absence -- he is now on another Middle East speaking tour sponsored by the State Department -- a host of allegations have been floated: that he supports terrorism; that his father, who worked at the behest of the Egyptian government, was a militant; that his publicly expressed views mask stealth extremism. Some charges, the available record suggests, are unsupported. Some are simplifications of his ideas. In any case, calling him a jihadist appears even less credible than calling him a United States agent.