Fox News hosted a series of discredited anti-Islam activists to smear Muslims during Fox’s coverage of the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Frank Gaffney On Fox News: FBI Cooperation With Muslim Communities Weakens National Security. In an April 20 appearance on Fox & Friends Saturday, the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney claimed that the FBI was not being “allowed to look for jihad” and criticized its cooperation with the American Muslim community when looking for terrorism threats:
GAFFNEY: The FBI, we’re hearing a lot about how they investigated, or at least talked to one of these brothers. I’m not sure that they were asking the right sorts of questions, because the FBI has over the past decade been told they’re not allowed to look for jihad. Their files have been purged of information about how even to understand jihad. They’re now told they need to consult with folks like Muslim brothers as to who are the proper people to do training. These are the sorts of things that leave us vulnerable, I believe, to not just this sort of attack but to far worse. And I think that’s what needs to be corrected first, and then you can worry about the sort of counter-IED problem as well.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Yeah, people tried to tell everyone that Hasan was a nut and was a radical and he ended up shooting everyone at Fort Hood. And now we have in 2011 a foreign government saying look out for this 26 year-old, go interview him. And you’re saying it’s not the FBI’s fault they can’t ask the questions that they really want to.
GAFFNEY: Well this is a matter of policy for, as I say, under both the Bush and most especially the Obama administration, connecting jihad, holy war, and Islamists who embrace it and believe it is their god-directed obligation to engage in it, with the attacks or terrorism that we are supposed to be defending ourselves against, has been impermissible. This is crazy and it has created, I think, vulnerabilities, as has frankly the lessening of the engagement of the public in this war. You have been talking about it all morning, the public helped enormously once those pictures went up. Well, it’s very much the case that we need to have the public on the case all the time. It’s kind of a question of, are we on a war footing in the face of this jihadist threat? This global jihadist threat, or aren’t we? And unless and until we are, I think we will wind up having an awful lot more and probably a lot worse of these kind of attacks. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 4/20/13]
SLPC: Frank Gaffney Is “The Anti-Muslim Movement’s Most Paranoid Propagandist.” A Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) profile of Frank Gaffney stated that “Gaffney seems to have snapped” at some point in the decades since his service in the Pentagon and founding of the “hawkish but once-respectable” Center for Security Policy (CSP). In recent years, Gaffney has been the key proponent of the conspiracy theory alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood is working toward a U.S. government takeover. According to SLPC:
For most Americans, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) evokes thoughts of a dark time in this country’s history. But Frank Gaffney Jr., the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist, is not most Americans. In 2011, he called on Congress to revive HUAC — this time around, to root out the Islamist operatives who, he claims, are well on their way to replacing America’s democracy with a totalitarian, Shariah-based caliphate.
“When it is impracticable to engage in violence, Shariah-adherent Muslims are still obliged to engage in jihad through stealthy techniques or, in the words of the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘civilization jihad,’” he said in 2011. “They are doing it through influence operations, the target set of which is comprehensive — government, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the military, penal institutions, media think tanks, political entities, academic institutions. And they are very aggressively targeting non-Muslim religious communities in the name of ecumenicalism.” [Southern Law Poverty Center, accessed 4/22/13]
Gaffney: “The Preferred Way Of Achieving [Shariah Law] Is, As Muhammad Taught, Through Violence.” In a January 23 Washington Times column, Frank Gaffney wrote that for Muslims “the preferred way of achieving [Shariah law] is, as Muhammad taught, through violence.” Gaffney also called the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) a “Muslim Brotherhood front group” that is “squealing like, well, stuck haram (or impure) pigs.” [The Washington Times, 1/23/12, via Media Matters]
Gaffney Equated Advocacy For The Park51 Community Center With Advocacy For Shariah Law. In an August 26, 2010, Washington Times op-ed, Frank Gaffney wrote that protesters at a rally against a planned Islamic community center in Manhattan — Park 51 — “had come together … in informed opposition to the impetus behind that mosque: Shariah.” Gaffney added: “In fact, throughout the crowd could be seen signs with just the word ‘Shariah’ lettered in dripping, blood-red ink.” [The Washington Times, 8/26/10 via Media Matters]
On Fox News, Jasser Defended His Participation in Rep. King’s Anti-Muslim Hearings. During an April 20 Fox & Friends Saturday appearance, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), defended his participation in Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) 2011 and 2012 congressional hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community. He argued that these hearings were useful in identifying how young adherents to Islam who come to the United States end up participating in terrorist attacks in the United States:
JASSER: Well this is where it’s important that the American Muslim community — this is a Muslim problem that needs a Muslim solution. Chairman King was vilified and those of us Muslims that testified in the American Muslim radicalization hearings on Congress in 2011 and again in 2012, because we said we need to identify how we can pull Muslims away from this concept of the supremacism of the Islamic state. Because what’s appealing to youth that have an empty internal sense of soul is that they want to be — to bond to this identity of sort of the end of times sense of Al Qaeda and Islamism and the Islamic state. We need to as American Muslims pull them away into why our families are American. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 4/20/13]
Jasser: King Showed “Excellent Courage” In Moving Forward With Hearings. On the March 7, 2011, edition of America’s Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hosted Jasser, who stated that King “has shown excellent courage” and that the hearings were not “targeting Muslims or the faith of Islam.” Jasser later stated that most American Muslim organizations are “soaking up the attention with civil rights issues, victimology, and they’re not fixing the problem” of extremism. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/7/11, via Media Matters]
SPLC: Rep. King’s American Muslim Radicalization Hearings Were “Loathsome.” A March 8, 2011 Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) blog post, recounted how Rep. Peter Kings (R-NY) American Muslim radicalization hearings were “loathsome,” concluding that “[t]he reality is that King’s hearing are about demonizing Muslims, and they are, unfortunately, very likely to accomplish that goal.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/8/11]
New York Times: Jasser “Has Little Following Among Muslims,” Portrays American Muslim Leaders As “Radical Islamists.” A February 7, 2011, New York Times article previewing Rep. King’s hearings characterized Jasser has having “little following among Muslims”:
[King] said the only witness he had settled on for certain of the three he would call in the first hearing was Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a doctor from Arizona and an American military veteran who has little following among Muslims but has become a favorite of conservatives for his portrayal of American Muslim leaders as radical Islamists.” [The New York Times, 2/7/11]
Jasser’s Resume “Lacks Any Community Leadership Roles, Any Policy Or Academic Expertise.” A February 27, 2011, Washington Post article detailing Jasser’s experience paraphrased National Security Networks Heather Hurlburt, who claimed that Jasser lacked any sort of relevant experience usually requisite to offer expert testimony at a congressional hearing:
So what expertise or constituency justifies this medical doctor being the only non-congressman King has named? “A lifetime of practicing my faith,” he said in a telephone interview.
To Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network, a progressive foreign-policy think tank, Jasser’s [resume] lacks any community leadership roles, any policy or academic expertise.
“These aren’t people who we normally expect the policy process to produce,” she said. [The Washington Post, 2/27/11]
Cavuto On Gabriel: She Is “Expert On All Things Terror And All Things Terrorist.” Your World with Neil Cavuto host Neil Cavuto introduced Brigitte Gabriel as an “expert on all things terror and all things terrorist.” During the interview, Gabriel claimed that the bombing suspects were a part of an “army” of “Islamists.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 4/19/13]
Gabriel Is “An Entrepreneur, A Professional Muslim Basher.” In an email to Media Matters, John Espositio, head of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center For Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, called Gabriel “basically an entrepreneur, a professional Muslim basher. She, like [Pamela] Geller, [Robert] Spencer and company have no expert credentials in Islam or Muslim history and cultures, the very topics that they speak about. She is a fear monger pure, an Islamophobic culture warrior, and plays fast and loose to get the limelight and a career.” [Media Matters, 3/14/11]
New York Times’ Hoyt: Gabriel Is A “Radical Islamophobe.” New York Times former public editor Clark Hoyt described Brigitte Gabriel as a “radical Islamophobe” in an August 21, 2008, blog post, and stated that she defines “all practicing Muslims” as “radical Muslims.” Hoyt wrote the following article in response to reader comments from a New York Times Magazine interview:
Brigitte Gabriel is a provocative author and lecturer, a Lebanese-Christian who came to the United States after surviving the civil war that tore apart the land of her birth. She has made it her mission – one might say her crusade – to warn that radical Muslims, a term she defines as all practicing Muslims, are bent on taking over the West.
Gabriel has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks, “They Must Be Stopped.” Knowing her history, you don’t need to guess who “they” are. Gabriel believes that Muslims cannot serve loyally in the U.S. military, that interfaith dialogue is “nonsense,” and that the difference between the Arab world and Israel is “barbarism versus civilization.” The Muslim world will not be satisfied until all infidels are converted or eliminated, she has said.
Stephen Lee, the publicist at St. Martin’s Press for Gabriel’s new book, calls her views “extreme,” and I wouldn’t argue with that.
As for the terms “crusader” and “radical Islamophobe,” both strike me as fair descriptions in the context of a magazine feature that is supposed to be edgier than the news columns of the newspaper. Though much of the interview seemed comparatively mild, Gabriel showed a few of the rhetorical flashes that have made her such a controversial figure. Moderate Muslims, she said, “at this point are truly irrelevant.” Public foot baths for Muslim students at American universities are “the way they are taking over the West. They are doing it culturally, inch by inch. They don’t need to fire one bullet.”
One person who wrote to me said that Gabriel “is not opposed to Islam in any way, just against the terrifying Islam extremism.” But that isn’t really correct. A blog on The Australian Jewish News quoted Gabriel as saying last year, “Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” [The New York Times, Public Editor's Journal, 8/21/08]
New York Times: Gabriel Presents A Version Of Islam “Unrecognizable To Those Who Study Or Practice The Religion.” A March 7, 2011, New York Times article reported on Gabriel’s appearances at right-wing organization and Tea Party events, noting that at these events Gabriel presented a version of Islam “unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion”:
She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion. She has found a receptive audience among Americans who are legitimately worried about the spread of terrorism.
But some of those who work in counterterrorism say that speakers like Ms. Gabriel are spreading distortion and fear, and are doing the country a disservice by failing to make distinctions between Muslims who are potentially dangerous and those who are not.
Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.” [The New York Times, 3/7/11]
SPLC: Gabriel Is “Prone To Sweeping Generalizations And Exaggerations.” A Summer 2011 Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Intelligence Report profile of Gabriel described her as being “prone to sweeping generalizations” about Islam:
Gabriel views Islam in absolute terms as a monolithic threat to the United States, Israel and the West. She is prone to sweeping generalizations and exaggerations as she describes a grand, sophisticated Muslim conspiracy bent on world domination. [Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Summer 2011]
SPLC: Gabriel Has Conflated Muslims With Terrorists. In the Fall 2011 edition of its Intelligence Report, the SPLC described how Gabriel’s organization, ACT! for America, was attempting to moderate its language. The article described Gabriel’s penchant for conflating Muslims and terrorists:
Gabriel, who is closely aligned with the American political right on many fronts, has repeatedly made statements that conflate all Muslims with terrorists. (“Islamic terrorists … are really just very devout followers of Muhammad,” she wrote in 2006. “They are following his example and doing exactly what the Koran teaches and their mullahs exhort them to do.”) She angered a Jewish audience in a 2004 speech in which she reportedly referred to Arabs as “barbarians,” prompting a public apology from her hosts.
For her, it seems clear, the problem is not “radical” Islam — the problem is Islam itself.
During a 2007 lecture Gabriel gave to the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College as part a course on Islam, for example, she reportedly told U.S. military and national security personnel that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in public office on the basis of their faith. “If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America,” she said. [Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Fall 2011]
Fox Turned To Steve Emerson For His “Expertise On Terrorism.” In one of his multiple appearances on Fox News after the Boston Marathon was bombed, Fox & Friends Saturday co-host Alisyn Camerota introduced Steve Emerson as a “terror analyst.” At the end of the segment Camerota thanked Emerson for his “expertise on terrorism.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 4/20/13]
Center For American Progress: Emerson Has A History Of Pushing Questionable Claims. An August 2011 Center for American Progress (CAP) report chronicled Steve Emerson’s long history of spreading Islamophobic misinformation. According to CAP, Emerson has pushed misleading statistics designed “to hype the domestic Muslim threat,” suggested that 80 percent of American mosques were led by extremists, helped spark the hype that led to New York’s Park51 Community Center being falsely labeled the “ground zero mosque,” and accused multiple politicians of having compromising Islamist ties:
Emerson has a history of peddling questionable facts. Through IPT, Emerson pushed misleading statistics on “Muslim terrorism” meant to hype the domestic Muslim threat leading up to Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) March 2011 hearing on the alleged radicalization of Muslim American communities. On Fox News, Rep. King agreed with host Sean Hannity that 80 percent of mosques in America were “ruled by the extremists,” citing research by Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes.
Steven Emerson also bolstered the manufactured hysteria surrounding the construction of the Park51 community center in New York City as a sign of a radical Islamist infiltration. On August 20, 2010, Emerson announced that his “team of investigators had spent the past four weeks going through the newly found material,” allegedly proving the center’s Imam Rauf is a “radical extremist cleric who cloaks himself in sheep’s clothing.” Emerson stated that he had found “thirteen hours of audio tape” that contained information that is “shocking” and “explosive.” In the end, though, the tapes did not offer any new “radical” information against Rauf.
Emerson has also accused both Republican and Democratic administrations of empowering radicals by simply seeking outreach and conciliation with Muslim American communities. In 2007, he lashed out against President Bush’s initiative aimed at mending fences with the Muslim world. Emerson accused New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie of having a “strange relationship with radical Islam” after he nominated a Muslim, Sohail Mohammed, for a state judgeship. By simply nominating an American who happens to be Muslim, Emerson believes Gov. Christie has a “tin ear for radical Islam” because of a client Mohammed represented–a New Jersey imam.
He also accused Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Majority Whip, of being “in bed with radical Islam for the last eight years” because Durbin has allegedly ”aligned himself with CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations], sent them letters of congratulations, [and] agreed to speak to their banquets.” And on MSNBC, Emerson said President Obama’s outreach to Muslim communities is proof that Islamists have been given “free reign for them with influence of the administration. They think that they are going to have influence over the policies of financial constraints over terrorist activities. And, they think that they are going to be included now in policy deliberations.” Norah O’Donnell, the TV anchor, concluded his suggestions were “ridiculous.” [Center for American Progress, August 2011]
FAIR: “A Closer Look At Emerson’s Career Suggests His Priority Is Not So Much News As It Is An Unrelenting Attack Against Arabs And Muslims.” A 1999 report from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) documented multiple instances where Emerson had been publicly discredited. FAIR wrote that Emerson has in the past “present[ed] himself as a journalist,” but a “closer look at Emerson’s career suggests his priority is not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims.” The report highlighted an experience the Associated Press had with Emerson’s misinformation as a clear example:
In 1997, for example, an Associated Press editor became convinced that Emerson was the “mother lode of terrorism information,” according to a reporter who worked on a series that looked at American Muslim groups.
As a consultant on the series, Emerson presented AP reporters with what were “supposed to be FBI documents” describing mainstream American Muslim groups with alleged terrorist sympathies, according to the project’s lead writer, Richard Cole. One of the reporters uncovered an earlier, almost identical document authored by Emerson. The purported FBI dossier “was really his,” Cole says. “He had edited out all phrases, taken out anything that made it look like his.”
Another AP reporter, Fred Bayles, recalls that Emerson “could never back up what he said. We couldn’t believe that document was from the FBI files.”
Emerson’s contribution was largely stripped from the series, and he retaliated with a “multi-page rant,” according to Cole. AP executive editor Bill Ahearn does not dispute that the incident happened, but refuses to comment or to release documents because the episode was deemed an “internal matter.” A ranking AP editor in Washington says: “We would be very, very, very, very leery of using Steve Emerson.” [Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, Extra!, January/February 1999]
Fox Guest Steve Emerson Doubled Down On Debunked Saudi National Deportation Conspiracy. On April 18, Emerson appeared on Fox News’ Hannity to push a debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland was deporting a Saudi national who was injured by an explosion in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/18/13, via Media Matters]
For Baseless Remarks By Emerson On President Obama’s Religion, Click Here