In an effort to defend against charges that opposition to the building of Park51, an Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero is an affront to the principle of religious freedom, Fox News figures, led by Newt Gingrich, have argued that there are already "a whole bunch" of mosques in New York City.
Conservative media point to "100 mosques in New York City" to claim opposition to Park51 "has nothing to do with religious liberty"
Newt Gingrich: "[I]f they want to build this mosque in the South Bronx, I'm all for it." On several Fox News shows, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed that "there are over 100 mosques in New York City," so "this has nothing to do with religious liberty," and suggested that the mosque should instead be built "in the south Bronx." From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GINGRICH: This is not about the right. First of all, there are over 100 mosques in New York City. So people have the right to free religion if they want it. I've said it openly, if they want to build this mosque in the South Bronx, I'm all for it.
From the August 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity (via Nexis):
GINGRICH: Look, I think all along that has been a very unusual situation. Here you have somebody who is deliberately picking a political site. I mean let's be quite clear about this.
This has nothing to do with religious liberty. There are over 100 mosques in New York City and frankly if he wanted to build his mosque in the south Bronx -- the south Bronx, I'd applaud him. They need the jobs. But to pick a site deliberately near Ground Zero is a political act.
From the July 26 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (via Nexis):
GINGRICH: I frankly find it very offensive, first of all, that they we're so stupid that they can use that kind of a title and we didn't notice it. Second, that -- you know, there are over 100 mosques in New York City. I favor religious freedom. I'm quite happy if they'd come and said, We want to build a community center near Central Park, we'd like to build a community center near Columbia University. But they didn't. They said right at the edge of a place where, let's be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.
Peter Ferrara on FoxNews.com: "New York City already offers more than 100 mosques." An August 4 FoxNews.com column by Peter Ferrara stated, "The Constitution would not allow the government to prohibit any mosques, as Saudi Arabia prohibits any Christian churches or Jewish synagogues. But New York City already offers more than 100 mosques, and more could be built anywhere else in the city."
Doocy: "It's not like there are no mosques in New York City. There are a whole bunch of them." From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (Host): Nobody disputes that there is a right to go ahead and build that there because we are a very tolerant nation.
DANA PERINO (Fox News Contributor): They have the right.
DOOCY: They have the right, but it's just sensitivity. Why does it have to be so close? And it's not like there are no mosques in New York City. There are a whole bunch of them. There are hundreds or thousands across the country and he even made the comments at a dinner at Ramadan at the White House.
Judge Jeanine Pirro on Fox & Friends: "We're not interfering" with religious freedom, "[t]here are 100 mosques in New York City." On the August 16 edition of Fox & Friends, Judge Jeanine Pirro, who appears as a legal analyst for Fox News, claimed that the "100 mosques in New York City" prove that opponents of the Islamic cultural center are "not interfering" with religious freedom:
PETER JOHNSON, JR. (guest host): Let me just pose this, be the devil's advocate, why should Muslim-Americans be excluded from the right to worship in any place they want to worship? Why should the government decide where and how and when they worship? Doesn't that go against our Constitution?
PIRRO: First of all, Peter, you're absolutely right ask we all know what the answer to your question is and that is that the first amendment protects religious freedom. But remember, we're not interfering with that. There are 100 mosques in New York City, number one. And number two, it would be like the Germans building a monument to themselves at the death camps. I mean, there are certain things that are inappropriate. And to trumpet this as something that they have the right to do on the footprint where it's basically a hallowed grave site is just frightening. And at the end of the day, what you've got here, I think it's going to come down to whether the unions are going to build there, whether they're going to be protests, whether New York City is going to, you know, cooperate. And by the way, why are we sending this imam on a state-funded trip throughout the Middle East to explain Islam in the Middle East? Is he raising funds for this? Where are the funds coming from? He plopped down $5 million. It's going to cost, what, $100 million to build this thing. Who is funding this and why? So the issue is, is it provocation? Is it celebration? Is it triumphalism?