The right-wing media is claiming that Rep. Keith Ellison made up a "phony Islamophobic story" that a Muslim first responder who died in the September 11 attacks had been subject to dark rumors that he may have been involved in the attack. In fact, numerous media outlets reported on such "unfounded speculation" from authorities and others, and that those rumors were ended for good when his body was found.
Ellison: After Muslim Victim Died In Rescue Effort, "Some People Tried To Smear His Character"
Ellison: After Hamdani's Death, "False Rumors" Circulated That He "Was In League With The Attackers." From Ellison's testimony during the hearing held by Rep. Peter King (R) on "The extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community's response":
ELLISON: Let me close with a true story, but remember that it's only one of many American stories that could be told. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a 23-year-old paramedic, a New York City police cadet and Muslim American. He was one of those brave first responders who tragically lost his life in 9/11 terrorist attack almost a decade ago. As The New York Times eulogized, "He wanted to be seen as an all-American kid. He wore No. 79 on the high school football team in Bayside, Queens, where he lived." He was called Sal by his friends. "He became a research assistant at Rockefeller University and drove an ambulance part time. One Christmas he sang in Handel's 'Messiah' in Queens. He saw all the 'Star Wars' movies, and it was well known that his new Honda was the one with 'Yung Jedi' license plates.
Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try to help others on 9/11. After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers because he was a Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were exposed. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans. [Ellison testimony via ThinkProgress.org, 3/10/11]
Ellison Was Right: Media Accounts Detailed Police Suspicions That Muslim Victim May Have Been Involved In The Attack
NY Post Asked If Hamdani Was "Missing -- or Hiding," Reported "The Hunt Is Still On," Cited Source Saying Hamdani Could Be "Up To Some Tricks." From an October 12, 2001, New York Post article, headlined "Missing -- Or Hiding? -- Mystery Of NYPD Cadet From Pakistan":
The NYPD is hunting for one of its former cadets, initially reported missing in the Twin Towers attack, issuing an urgent "hold and detain" order for the Pakistani native.
[I]nvestigators for the FBI and NYPD have since questioned the family about which Internet chat rooms he visited and if he was political.
Hamdani, a graduate of Queens College with a biochemistry degree, had been in the NYPD cadet program for three years. He became "inactive" because he needed to work full time, his mother said.
Police sources said he hadn't been to work at the NYPD since April, but he still carried official identification.
One source told The Post: "That tells me they're not looking for this guy at the bottom of the rubble. The thing that bothers me is, if he is up to some tricks, he can walk past anybody [using the ID card]."
Hamdani's mother, who has been in the United States for two decades, denied her son was political or a religious fundamentalist.
The Police Department refused to comment on the case, but investigators privately theorize that the family's first notion was correct: Hamdani died in the disaster.
Still, sources close to the investigation say the hunt is still on - cops at the Midtown Tunnel reported spotting someone who looked like Hamdani yesterday morning. [New York Post via Nexis, 10/12/01]
NY Times: "Absent Police Cadet Sought After Disappearance," Flier Circulating Among Police, Terrorist Task Force "Want To Talk To Him." From an October 12, 2001, New York Times article, headlined "Absent Police Cadet Sought After Disappearance":
A police cadet who went off to work the morning of the World Trade Center attack has not been seen since, prompting unusual attention from the New York Police Department and federal authorities.
A flier with a picture of the cadet, Mohammad Hamdani, 23, has been circulated among police officers. A joint terrorist task force of the Police Department and the F.B.I. want to talk to him, government officials said yesterday.
But the case remained as mysterious as Mr. Hamdani's disappearance. He was last seen the morning of Sept. 11 as he left to take the Q38 bus from his home at 34-31 204th Street in Bayside, Queens, said his aunt, Dr. Shahnez Razzk. He worked in Manhattan in a research job at Rockefeller University, she said yesterday.
On Tuesday, she said, several investigators, whom she described as C.I.A. officials, visited the house.
According to Dr. Razzk, they wanted to help investigate Mr. Hamdani's disappearance.
''The C.I.A., when they were here, were very friendly,'' she said. ''The one agent, she was totally moved. She had tears in her eyes. They were here to help.'' [New York Times, 10/12/01]
Newsday: "Investigators Are Skeptical That Hamdani Was Lost In The World Trade Center Rubble," Believe He "May Be In Hiding." From an October 13, 2001, Newsday article, subheadlined "Investigators believe Bayside man in hiding":
Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 23, the Bayside police cadet whom officials have wanted for questioning since the World Trade Center terror attack, was an emergency medical technician and part-time ambulance driver.
Friends and colleagues say he was a big-hearted, helpful man, and likely headed for the Twin Towers to try to help.
They can't understand why police believe he may not have died in the collapse and instead may be in hiding.
Investigators are skeptical that Hamdani was lost in the World Trade Center rubble because he had no reason to be nearby that day, police sources said.
Law enforcement sources said Friday that although investigators would like to question Hamdani, he is not considered a suspect and he is not being secretly held for questioning, as his family fears.
Police also said they had no knowledge of a flier that has been posted in some locations stating that Hamdani is wanted by the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force.
But Evan Mintzer, a dispatcher for the Metro Care ambulance company Hamdani worked for, said an employee came across such a flier with Hamdani's picture. [Newsday via Nexis, 10/13/01]
Ellison Was Right: Rumors Reportedly Swirled In Victim's Neighborhood And College Campus That He May Have Been Involved In Attack
Newsday: "Rumors That Proved To Be Unfounded Had Circulated Among His Bayside Neighbors." An April 6, 2002, Newsday article reported: "Rumors that proved to be unfounded had circulated among his Bayside neighbors after fliers were posted saying police wanted to question him in connection with the attacks. Police denied any knowledge of the fliers." [Newsday via Nexis, 5/6/02]
NY Times: "Unfounded Speculation" On Hamdani's Campus Questioned Whether Hamdani "'Fit The Profile' Of A Terrorist" From an October 29, 2001, New York Times column:
The mystery has engendered rumors. Fliers -- saying that Mr. Hamdani was wanted for questioning by a joint terrorist task force of the Police Department and the F.B.I. -- circulated among police officials earlier this month. They spawned unfounded speculation that made it as far as the Queens College campus: could Salman, who was quiet, worked in a lab, was a Muslim, have "fit the profile" of a terrorist.
RIDICULOUS, said William Hersh, his former chemistry professor. "He's been victimized twice," said Mr. Hersh, who described Mr. Hamdani as "a normal college kid" -- friendly, outgoing and apolitical. ("I think he voted for Bush because his father told him he should.") [New York Times via Nexis, 10/29/01]
Ellison Was Right: Media Reports That Rumors Were Ended For Good When His Body Was Found
NY Times: With Discovery Of Hamdani's Body, "Now There Are No More Questions." From a March 25, 2002, New York Times column, headlined "A Son Lost, A Reputation Redeeded":
THE truth, feared but at the same time sadly comforting, came in the night. Two police officers from the local precinct drove through the quiet streets of Bayside last Wednesday to deliver the news, to tell the mother and father of Muhammad Salman Hamdani that yes, he had died on Sept. 11. His remains had been found near the north tower, and identified.
Yet another confirmed death, the awful doing of terrorists. But the story of 23-year-old Salman, as his family called him, was unlike those of most of the people missing in the attack on the World Trade Center. A mystery surrounded his disappearance. He did not work at the trade center. He had no appointment there. He did not show up at work on Manhattan's Upper East Side. And he never came home.
When there are questions there are often rumors, which there were about Mr. Hamdani, scurrilous whisperings that he was either connected to the terrorists or hiding out, scheming to profit from the tragedy, like those 23 people accused last week of falsely claiming that they had lost relatives in the attacks.
Ludicrous, said everyone who knew Mr. Hamdani. Now there are no more questions. Mr. Hamdani was not perpetrating a fraud, as implied in a New York Post article about which the Hamdanis remain bitter. He was missing because he was killed.
DNA testing identified her son's remains -- and reclaimed his reputation.
It had been sullied about a month after the attack, when fliers circulated saying that Mr. Hamdani was wanted for questioning by the joint terrorism task force of the F.B.I. and Police Department. His former professors were asked about his lab work and character. Newspaper articles appeared, including one in The Post, with its accusatory headline and anonymous quotations. Some of the Hamdanis' neighbors whispered.
IT turns out the flier was unofficial and unauthorized. In late October, a police spokesman cleared Mr. Hamdani of any complicity in the attack. But it seems a shame that the rumors circulated in the first place, and it is hard to separate them from Mr. Hamdani's religion. If everyone really is a suspect in wartime, New Yorkers would have heard suspicions about firefighters. Fire Department officials say they do not have a list available of firefighters and their Sept. 11 assignments.
Theoretically, the reputations of some missing firefighters could have been marred by slanderous suggestions that they faked their deaths. They haven't been, appropriately. Mr. Hamdani was not so fortunate. [New York Times, 3/25/02, emphasis added]
AP: For Six Months Before His Body Was Found, Hamdani's Family "Had To Endure The Rumors That He Was A Fugitive Terrorist." From an April 5, 2002, Associated Press article:
For six months after Sept. 11, the family of Salman Hamdani had to endure the rumors that he was a fugitive terrorist, or that he was in federal custody. On Friday, he was remembered for what he truly was: a hero who died in the rubble of the World Trade Center.
The 23-year-old Muslim, his remains in a flag-draped coffin at a Manhattan mosque, was praised at his long-delayed funeral for a selfless and fatal choice: heading to ground zero to help his fellow Americans.
"We don't know how many people he helped, how many lives he saved," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told several hundred mourners at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. "But if you look at his life, you know he was determined to make a difference - and he did. He was indeed a hero."
Hamdani, a Pakistani-born laboratory research assistant who also had training as a medical technician, was missing for more than six months after the terrorist attacks that killed more than 2,800 people. His remains - along with his medical bag, containing an ID - were finally recovered near the north tower. Hamdani was not positively identified until March 20. [Associate Press via Nexis, 4/5/02]
"Crock Of Shit": Despicable Right Wing Media Falsely Claim Ellison Is A "Liar," "Bigot"
NRO's Shaffer: Ellison A "Bigot," His Story Is "Pretty Close To The Opposite Of The Truth," Post Article Shows What "Inevitably Happens After A Major Terrorist Attack." In a March 10 National Review Online article headlined "Rep. Keith Ellison's Bigotry," Matthew Shaffer wrote:
Does Ellison's account check out with reality?
No. It is actually pretty close to the opposite of the truth. In fact, six weeks after the September 11 attacks -- before Hamdani's remains were identified, which Ellison implies to be the turning point of public perception -- Congress signed the PATRIOT Act into law with this line included: "Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing." That is, Hamdani was actually singled out for particular high honors among the thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks.
There's little evidence of the "rumors" of which Ellison speaks, either. Poke around yourself. Go to Google and search for Mohammed Salman Hamdani's name, using various time frames from before today's hearings (say, in the week after the September 11 attack). You'll discover two discordant sets of returns: none for sites and news reports accusing Hamdani of being a terrorist, and many thousands of pages honoring him as a hero while claiming that he was "widely accused" of being a terrorist.
Web pages that do source the claim that Hamndani was "widely accused" of being a terrorist typically trace back to a single report from the New York Post, dated Oct. 12, 2001, and titled "Missing -- or Hiding? Mystery of NYPD Cadet from Pakistan."
So the Post reported 1) that Hamdani's family believed he died in the WTC attacks, 2) that the FBI asked Hamdani's mother a few background questions after a mistaken sighting, and 3) that an unnamed source felt such questioning implied guilt. No doubt, that was hard on the grieving mother. But frankly, this -- a mistaken sighting, and very preliminary investigations of many people, most of whom turn out to be innocent -- is the kind of thing that inevitably happens after a major terrorist attack. [National Review Online, 3/10/11]
Fox Nation: "Ellison's Emotional Story Stretches The Truth." On March 10, Fox Nation linked to the NRO article with the following headline:
[Fox Nation via Media Matters, 3/10/11]
Hannity Cites NRO Piece, Asks Whether Ellison's Testimony Was "Not Accurate." Interviewing Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Sean Hannity asked:
HANNITY: Now Congressman, I have a very important question because he talked about smearing this man's character because of his Islamic faith and spreading false rumors and et cetera, et cetera.
I have a piece that has been put up on National Review online in fact, when Congress signed the Patriot Act into law they included this line. Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans acted heroically during attacks on the United States including the gentleman that Mr. Ellison is talking about.
They actually mentioned him by name and when they did a Google search of smears and lies and attacks and all of this, they couldn't find these examples that he was talking about. But I think for one and it was even - it was just a question raised more than anything else.
Are you aware that -- do you suspect what he was saying today was not accurate? [Fox News, Hannity via Media Matters, 3/10/11]
Weasel Zippers: Ellison Story Is "A Total Crock Of Shit." Weasel Zippers quoted From the NRO article under the headline, "You Know the Story Ellison Told During King Hearings That Brought Him to Tears? Yeah, It's a Total Crock of Shit..." [Weasel Zippers, 3/10/11]
Geller: "Grotesque Liar Keith Ellison's Crocodile Tears Over Made-Up Tale." In a blog post titled "Grotesque Liar Keith Ellison's Crocodile Tears Over Made-Up Tale," Pamela Geller linked to the Weasel Zippers report and wrote:
This is war -- and there is no morality, there is no depth the enemy within won't sink to. Today liar and Hamas supporter Keith Ellison wasn't crying, he was laughing at us, soft America.
Lying and taunting America because of her heartstrings is beneath the contempt of decent men. Ellison's hajj to Mecca was paid for by the Muslim Brotherhood. The only purpose for his 'testimony' was to show the American people the face of the enemy and how low they will go. [Atlas Shrugs, 3/10/11]
Riehl At Breitbart's Big Peace: "Keith Ellison Lied, People Cried." In a post at Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace website headlined "Keith Ellison Lied, People Cried," Dan Riehl wrote:
Now, via NRO, we discover that Ellison's account of events around Hamdani's death does not even comport with reality. If anything, Ellison has disgraced a heroic victim of Islamic terrorism on 9/11 by spitting on his grave by invoking his name coupled with politically motivated lies and manipulations. What a disgrace. [Big Peace, 3/11/11]
Hoft: Ellison's Story "Was All A Lie." In a post to his Gateway Pundit blog, Jim Hoft wrote of Ellison's testimony:
It was a touching moment.
Too bad it was all a lie.
Matthew Shaffer at National Review has the rest of the story.
Rep. Ellison would rather have you focus on a phony Islamophobic story instead. [Gateway Pundit, 3/11/11]