I do not expect corporate media outlets to report “facts” without exaggerating them, cherry-picking them, “misprinting” and later retracting them, or making them up entirely. I do, however, expect these outlets and their celebrity reporters to at least publicly pretend they lack a double standard. How foolish of me.
In an interview three weeks ago, CNN’s Rick Sanchez claimed that the media is run by Jews and that Jews in America are not an oppressed minority. He was fired the next morning. Deeply regretful, Sanchez dragged himself to breakfast shows around the country and took every opportunity to apologize for his remarks. Meanwhile, an unforgiving CNN popped its collar, brushed its shoulders off, and took a bow to the cheerful applause of nearly everyone.
Two weeks after this incident, Bill O’Reilly appeared on The View and, justifying his opposition to the Lower Manhattan Islamic Centre, claimed that “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set, horrified by his remarks. Unlike Sanchez, who admitted that his statements were intrinsically repugnant, O’Reilly gave the sleazy “I’m sorry that you took offence” apology. In other words, “I am sorry that you got upset over what I think is the truth.” O’Reilly was not fired. Instead, support gushed in from the conservative right, and his ratings went through the roof.
In fact, Fox News contributor Brian Kilmeade went on TV the next day. Showcasing his solidarity, Kilmeade outdid O’Reilly himself. “Not all Muslims are terrorists,” he claimed, “but all terrorists are Muslims.”
Surely such an absolute claim that is so easily refutable, and so harrowingly prejudiced, was an accidental slip of the tongue, right? Wrong. Kilmeade repeated this statement again a few hours later. He only apologized after the weekend passed, with a seemingly insincere and unmeant statement. Did Fox terminate his contract? Take a wild guess.
A week later, NPR’s Juan Williams went on the O’Reilly Factor and stated that he “gets nervous” when he gets on a plane and sees people “wearing Muslim garb.” Williams was fired, but not for long. Virtually every influential conservative, individual or institution, lashed out at NPR. Several prominent lawmakers and politicians urged Congress to eliminate NPR’s federal subsidies. Meanwhile, the same day he was fired by NPR, Fox News signed Williams to a three-year contract worth $2 million.
What about Sanchez? Did either Fox or MSNBC rush to exploit this right-leaning, former TV news anchor, heartbroken by a left-wing media competitor? Nope. None of them was “interested at all” in the “disgraced” Sanchez.
A recent poll by CBS showed that 42 per cent of Americans feel so strongly about the proposed Islamic centre in Lower Manhattan that it will likely influence their vote in next week’s congressional elections. Incidentally, the same poll revealed that 40 per cent of Americans have an unfavourable opinion of Islam—worse than it was post 9/11—even though 91 per cent of these poll takers admitted that they knew “some,” “not very much,” or “nothing” about Islam and its practices.
Statements by O’Reilly, Kilmeade, and Miller are not negligent outbursts or genuine misunderstandings or “gaffes.” They are carefully thought-out phrases that nourish an organized and systematic exploitation of an irrational and rising fear of Muslims and Islam. They are tools that boost ratings, while ensuring the media’s continued and deliberate failure to draw a clear distinction between the over 1.3 billion followers of Islam and the small percentage of that number who betray its teachings.
Meanwhile, 58 per cent of Americans say they do not personally know a Muslim.