Two recently released polls show that an increasing number of Americans believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of people who believe this false claim cite the media as the source of that information -- and, indeed, the right-wing media have incessantly promoted this lie.
As Talking Points Memo reported, former Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson today expressed support for building an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, saying, "[I]t may not make me hap-- popular with some people, but I think probably the president was right about this."
Olson, as TPM noted, lost his wife, the late conservative author and activist Barbara Olson, on the day of the attacks. She was on board the hijacked plane flown into the Pentagon. Appearing on today's edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, Olson said:
OLSON: Well, it may not make me popular with some people, but I think probably the president was right about this. I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices, or structures, or places of religious worship or study, where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing, and that we don't want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don't think it should be a political issue. It shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue, either. I believe Governor Christie from New Jersey said it well -- that this should not be in that political, partisan marketplace.
While hosting an iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan on August 14, President Obama stated: "As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable."
As we documented, Obama was roundly attacked by conservatives for his comments, with right-wing commentator Pamela Geller asserting that Obama "has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists." Conservatives also responded to Obama's comments by falsely claiming that opponents of the proposed community center had not talked about restricting Muslims' religious freedom, when in fact they had.
Watch Olson's comments:
Conservative media have continued to accuse the imam leading the initiative to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan of being a "secret radical," pointing to his remark that "the United States' policies were an accessory" to the 9-11 attacks. In fact, Rauf has condemned terrorism and has been widely described as "moderate," and his comments on 9-11 are not outside the mainstream.
The right-wing media have found yet another way to keep their controversy surrounding a Manhattan Islamic center front and center -- by loudly trumpeting Hamas' apparent endorsement of the proposed mosque and thereby showing that the terrorist organization is on the same side as President Obama (the secret Muslim who -- as Pam Geller put it -- "has, in effect, sided with Islamic jihadists.")
In an interview aired Sunday on talk radio, Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar reportedly said that Muslims "have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places." Zahar continued: "We have to build everywhere."
Predictably, conservative media quickly seized on the news: the New York Post -- "Hamas big backs mosque"; the Drudge Report -- "Mosque Mess Monday"; Fox Nation -- "Hamas Leader: Ground Zero Mosque must be built"; Atlas Shrugs' Pam Geller -- "Genocidal Hamas Backs Obama and Rauf on Ground Zero Mosque"; and, of course, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Glenn Beck.
But let's be clear: Hamas hardly "jumped" into the controversy, as the New York Post breathlessly claimed. It was cleverly dragged into it by none other than anti-Obama author Aaron Klein, the Jerusalem bureau chief of right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com -- the same website that has repeatedly suggested that Obama was born in Kenya and promoted a fraudulent Obama "Kenyan birth certificate." It was on Klein's WABC radio show that Zahar appeared.
Conservative media have falsely warned that a provision in the Wall Street regulatory reform law institutes racial quotas for hiring and used that claim to revisit the smear that lending to minorities caused the economic crisis. In fact, the law sets no racial or gender quotas for hiring or lending.
On his syndicated radio show last night, conservative talker Hugh Hewitt asked listeners to forgo marches between now and November, imploring them instead to donate that money to "candidates who support the right things." Hewitt said: "I know some of you are planning on going to marches between now and then. I sure wouldn't spend a dollar on going to a march. I really wouldn't. That's money. That's real, cash money that could be given to a candidate." Hewitt listed various Republican candidates to give money to including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, "a great governor," and Jane Norton of Colorado, whom he has especially endorsed.
But the most important conservative rally all year is Glenn Beck's upcoming "historic" Restoring Honor Rally on August 28 -- well, at least from Beck's perspective. For the past few months, we've been treated to the relentless refrain that this march -- this "turning point" in American history, rather -- "will be remembered as the moment America turned the corner." This is not just a "rally," you see; this is going to be "an iconic event" that will "reclaim the civil rights movement." Keep the rally "in your prayers," he has even asked.
Fox hosts are falsely claiming that a provision in the financial reform legislation gives a "complete pass" to the Securities and Exchange Commission from complying with the Freedom of Information Act. In fact, the provision reportedly only protects proprietary information gathered from regulated firms during the course of examinations or investigations, which mirrors exemptions that exist for bank regulators.
In his latest Washington Times op-ed titled, "Wanted: Grown-up governance," Robert Knight of Coral Ridge Ministries sought to paint the current administration as "a gang of perpetual adolescents," adding that brain research "has shown that adolescents ... haven't developed the part of the mind that governs risk aversion." He went on to berate the Obama administration for its fiscal policies and accused "the Washington gang" of "yearn[ing] to surrender American sovereignty to the United Nations and international legal elites."
That inanity aside, Knight went on to unleash a torrent of misinformation -- not the first time he's done so.
In the name of love and peace, our nation's adolescent leaders are ignoring the constitutional mandate to secure our border. Instead, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s Justice Department is suing Arizona for acting like a state run by grown-ups and enforcing federal immigration law. At the same time, Justice is blessing "sanctuary cities" that explicitly vow to ignore the law. Right on, dudes! Mr. Holder also dropped charges against members of the New Black Panther Party who were videotaped intimidating Philadelphia voters in 2008. Wow, look at those cool fatigues and baton!
Many of these power-wielding adolescents in government and the media apparently are unfamiliar with our Constitution. This is by design. When Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was dean of Harvard's Law School, constitutional law was dropped from the list of mandatory courses, while international law was added.
Some basic facts: The Holder Justice Department is not suing the state of Arizona for "enforcing federal immigration law"; DOJ believes the Arizona immigration law is unconstitutional -- and numerous experts agree -- and its lawsuit is centered on the fact that immigration policy is "strictly" the purview of the federal government. Further, the Arizona law does not simply "enforc[e] federal immigration law" -- the state law is a dramatic departure from federal policies.
Knight's claim that the attorney general "dropped charges" against members of the New Black Panther Party also has been thoroughly debunked. Fact: The Bush Justice Department made the decision not to pursue criminal charges in the case, and in May 2009, the Obama DOJ "sought and obtained" the "maximum penalty" against one of the New Black Panthers accused of carrying a baton outside the polling station.
Knight's claim that as dean of Harvard Law, Kagan "dropped" constitutional law from its list of "mandatory classes" in favor of international law is false as well. The facts: Prior to Kagan's tenure, constitutional law at Harvard was not a requirement for first-year law students. Furthermore, Kagan did not drop con-law, but added "new first-year courses in international and comparative law, legislation and regulation, and complex problem solving," which were unanimously approved.
To grown-ups, facts do matter.
As readers of the Atlas Shrugs website can attest, Pam Geller is far from a moderate voice on anything regarding Islam. So it was a bit surprising to see her on NBC, of all places, talking about the proposed mosque to be built just a few hundred feet from Ground Zero in Manhattan.
Geller, who never misses the chance to malign Islam, Muslims, or President Obama, said during the report: "Why should there be a mosque in there? On the top floor, looking down at Ground Zero?" Under her name, NBC featured the text: "Stop Islamization of America." Geller then added: "It's offensive to people."
What is truly offensive is Geller -- who has accused Obama of speaking "like an ... anti-Semitic Muslim terrorist" and claimed that he "wants Jihad to win" -- being given a platform to voice an opinion on this issue. Geller has traded in the sort of "offensive" -- read hateful -- commentary about Muslims and the religion of Islam that should get her banned from appearing on any network.
The NBC report rightly pointed out that this proposed mosque, the Cordoba House, is supposed to be a monument to religious tolerance and anti-extremism. Then why did NBC feature hatemonger Geller as a credible source to voice opposition to it?
I mean, this is the same person who, in a post titled "Forecast: Blood On The Streets," has said Obama "is itching for a civil war. And at the rate he is going, he is going to get one," and doctored an image of Supreme Court nomine Elena Kagan to look like she was wearing a Nazi uniform. Kagan is Jewish.
In May, Geller appeared on Fox News' Fox & Friends to discuss the mosque, saying she was leading an effort against the project. She went on to say that "there's no tolerance there" and wondered: "I don't know why they'd want to stab Americans in the eye with that."
This morning, Media Research Center president Brent Bozell appeared on Fox News' Fox & Friends to talk about new CMS head Donald Berwick and, even without listening to the segment, one can pretty much guess what he said. Though Bozell took pains to stress that his statements were "not right-wing talking," he nevertheless went ahead and parroted the right-wing line that Berwick is "a proud socialist," adding, "Karl Marx would be proud of this man."
Beginning around 10 a.m., Bozell passed the baton onto his NewsBusters site, where writers put up a slew of posts trying to hammer home the point that Berwick has "pro-socialized medicine views," is "controversial" because he has "promised" that the "decision is not whether or not we will ration care, the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open," and has "insisted that health-care systems must redistribute wealth." Yep, I'm pretty sure that covers your run-of-the-mill "right-wing talking" points, no matter what Bozell claims.
Well, let's review those claims, which, incidentally, Glenn Beck has pushed for the last couple of days. As we pointed out when Beck accused Berwick of being a "blatant socialist" because of his "redistribute wealth" comments, health programs like Medicare and Medicaid -- which Berwick will oversee -- actually are explicitly redistributional (and incredibly popular); they redistribute wealth from those who can afford health care to those who can't. Even Fox News' Laura Ingraham has acknowledged that Berwick's comments are "right." So there is no reason to make out that there is something unusual about what Berwick has said.
Conservative media figures have also used Berwick's call to "ration with our eyes open" to attack him, with NewsBusters touting Fox News' Jim Angle's flawed reporting on the matter. In his report, Angle claimed that Berwick "laments the amount of money spent on people in their final weeks of life" and quoted his "eyes open" statement. But Angle cropped out the portion of the statement in which Berwick noted that rationing is already occurring. Indeed, the insurance industry has readily admitted to using cost-benefit analyses in coverage decisions.