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On the December 21 edition of MSNBC News Live, Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus said she thought it was "a little bit strange" that "we're focusing on" controversial remarks by Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) instead of Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), whom Jacobus called "a newly elected member of Congress trying to cause controversy." As the weblog TPMMuckraker noted, the weblog Waldo Jaquith posted a letter by Goode saying: "I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America." In the letter, Goode also attacked Ellison: "[I]f American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran." Ellison reportedly intends to use a copy of the Quran presumably during the ceremonial photo op on the day he is sworn in.
Jacobus falsely asserted that "every other elected member to Congress" had sworn in on the Bible," echoing Townhall.com columnist Dennis Prager's baseless attacks. In fact, as Media Matters for America noted, even Prager admitted that some "Jews have used only the Old Testament." For instance, according to the newspaper The Forward, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) refused to swear in on one of outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert's Christian Bibles and used a Hebrew Bible provided by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY).
Jacobus also baselessly claimed that Ellison was "proactive in making a stink" about using the Quran. However, as a December 7 article in The Christian Science Monitor noted, it was Prager's column that "sparked a brouhaha on talk radio, in the blogosphere, and in newspapers across the country." A November 9 New York Times article reported that "Arab news reports highlighted the fact that Mr. Ellison would probably take the oath of office on the Koran, something which also upset Muslim-bashers in the blogosphere" while Ellison himself "said he had not really thought about the swearing-in ceremony and had tried to keep the campaign focused on issues rather than his religion." A November 12 New York Daily News article added that Ellison "has said he will take his oath of office with his hand upon the Koran, the Islamic holy book." However, a November 20 Roll Call article reported on November 20 that Ellison spokeswoman Bridget Cusick said that Ellison "had raised the issue of the Quran in the first place only because a reporter had asked him whether he would use a Bible. 'It wasn't a thing where he brought it up and made it a thing,' she said." When Democratic strategist David Browne noted that "Ellison didn't do press on the Quran issue," Jacobus responded that Ellison "knew he was going to get press on it."
From the 1 p.m. ET segment of the December 21 edition of MSNBC News Live:
ALEX WITT (MSNBC host): But I'm curious -- overall, Cheri, why would Congressman Goode be so concerned about having a Muslim being sworn in using the Quran? I mean, how is it any different from a Christian using the Bible?
JACOBUS: Well, first of all, I'm a pretty big fan of free speech, so even if Congressman Goode's remarks were somewhat inelegant, if you read the blogs today there are a lot of people who sort of get his larger point -- first on immigration -- but also, you do have a newly elected Democrat [sic] Muslim member of Congress who seems to be proactive in making a stink about this, saying, "I will not be sworn in with my hand on the Bible like every other elected member to Congress before me."
WITT: But --
JACOBUS: And he could have -- look, if he wasn't trying to make a stink about it, if he wasn't trying to cause controversy, what he should have done, and the mature thing to do and the diplomatic thing to do, would be to say, "You know, I think I would like both." But instead, you have a newly elected member of Congress trying to cause controversy, and yet we're focusing on Virgil Goode? I think that's a little bit strange.
BROWNE: Well, he brought it up. You know, Ellison didn't bring this up. Ellison didn't do press on the Quran issue. It was -- this all started when --
JACOBUS: Oh, he knew he was going to get press on it. Come on, David, come on.
WITT: Hey, either of you -- would you guys have problems with an atheist not wanting to be sworn in on a Bible?
BROWNE: They don't have to be.
WITT: I need yes-or-no answers. I'm out of time. Yes or no.
JACOBUS: If they made a real big deal about it and tried to make controversy, yeah.