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.
In his book, The Manchurian President: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists, Klein -- who has distinguished himself as a shameless promoter of false and baseless conspiracy theories about Obama and his administration -- used false claims, discredited conspiracy theories, birther arguments, deceptive editing, and guilt by association to further the book's stated goal of tying Obama to "an Anti-American fringe nexus." Klein promoted the ludicrous theory that Bill Ayers "may have ghostwritten" Obama's 1995 autobiography Dreams From My Father; forwarded the discredited claim that Raila Odinga, who was running for president of Kenya when Obama visited the country in 2006 (Odinga is currently prime minister), is Obama's cousin; and pushed birther arguments on Obama's "eligibility" as president.
Klein has also promoted other baseless conspiracy theories, including that the Obama administration "encouraged 'resistance' by Palestinians to protest Israel's presence in eastern Jerusalem," that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan supports flag-burning, and that Obama is trying to "bring down the U.S. capitalist system."
As Slate.com's Dave Weigel pointed out, Klein has "tried this trick before. In 2008, he conducted an interview with Ahmed Yousef in which the Hamas political adviser 'endorsed' Obama. Cue: Days of headlines and weeks of 'why isn't the media covering this' blog posts about Klein's great scoop." Weigel concluded: "This is the guy you want running your news cycle?"
Politico's Ben Smith further wrote:
Today's New York Post woods (a term of tabloid art) with Aaron Klein's story on a Hamas official rather vaguely supporting the construction of a downtown mosque. (Klein is best known for having gotten Hamas officials to endorse John Kerry and President Barack Obama at key moments.)
The cover, though, is a reminder of how powerful an organ the Post remains, setting the tone in the nation's media capital and playing a central role in driving this particular story.
Addressing Smith's post on G. Gordon Liddy's syndicated radio talk show, Klein railed against "the few places attacking me ridiculously, like Politico, and now The Washington Post, but mostly Politico." He went on to say that it is "ridiculous" what Politico is "implying ... that somehow I have control over one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world."
Yet just like clockwork, Beck picked up Klein's Hamas interview, saying, "Someone does agree with the president of the United States and let me be clear, it is the co-founder of Hamas." Show producer Stu Burguiere in turn quipped: "That's not one you're gonna put on the campaign ad." Beck then stated: "When you have the guy from Hamas coming out and saying, 'Oh, it has to be built,' I -- something's not quite -- yes, something's not right. Something's not right."
Limbaugh also pounced on the comments, which were said, he puffed, on "WABC Radio, our flagship station in New York." Limbaugh seized on Zahar's claim that "this mosque is the only site of prayer" in lower Manhattan to push the popular right-wing argument that there are already "a lot" of mosques in New York City, citing one 12 blocks away from the cultural center's proposed site. He then insinuated a link between Obama and Hamas, concluding: "This is another thing that Obama and Hamas agree on, folks. Indeed, just like Hamas, Obama believes Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque at ground zero but that Israelis cannot be permitted to build houses on their own land."
And the conservative-driven controversy lives another day, thanks to Klein. Instead of an informed debate on religious tolerance and freedom of speech, the right wing has propelled this issue in one direction: giving it legs to facilitate numerous falsehoods and defend veiled racial and religious discrimination against Muslims -- further undermining anti-terrorists efforts, according to experts.
And now we've got more of this to look forward to in the morning. On his Twitter feed, Klein wrote that he is scheduled to be on tomorrow's edition of Fox & Friends and also crowed at how much traffic his interview has garnered. Klein wrote at one point, "My radio show made the cover of the NY Post! Hamas big backs 9-11 mosque":
Can we then look forward to a "fair and balanced" debate on Fox & Friends? Um...