Our VoiceIslamophobia

CNN gives Spencer, Geller platform to weigh in on Boston shooting


Kalia Abiade • Jun 04, 2015

CNN invited noted anti-Muslim blogger and activist Robert Spencer on the air to amplify his anti-Muslim views in response to the police shooting of Usaama Rahim in Boston.

Spencer, who runs the website JihadWatch and co-leads the American Freedom Defense Initiative with Pamela Geller, did not deviate from his usual talking points during the June 4 segment, repeating baseless accusations against Rahim, the Islamic Society of Boston and Muslims in general.

Read: Muslim Advocates Urges Release of Video and Law Enforcement Transparency in Killing of Usaama Rahim

CNN’s Chris Cuomo invited Geller on his show today. She was also her normal, anti-Muslim self. She warned Cuomo that those supposedly seeking to behead her are “going to come for you too, Chris.”

This is not about refuting Spencer, Geller or their false facts. We expect that he will take whatever platform he can as an opportunity to advance his anti-Muslim agenda. This is about holding CNN and other media outlets responsible for allowing hatemongering conspiracy theorists on their channels, unchallenged.

Throughout the brief interview, the CNN anchors reinforced unfounded claims about Rahim, ignoring the lack of charges ever brought against him. Instead of questioning the “threat” law enforcement agencies said existed, the anchors — and, unsurprisingly, Spencer — parroted the talking points put forth by the FBI and Boston Police Department, including that Rahim intended to travel to New York to harm Geller.

As if to underscore CNN’s complicity in vilifying and convicting a dead man who cannot defend himself, Spencer noted that he and Geller found out about this accusation against Rahim not from law enforcement, but from reporters who called her for comment.

“We found out about this through CNN,” Spencer said. “This was the first she had learned about it.”

He went on to praise the FBI for doing “their job.”

The anchors also asked what Spencer and Geller were doing to fight against this so-called “war” against radical Islam that they claim has engulfed the U.S. They were also nice enough to let Spencer talk about AFDI’s future plans were and what they had “in the works.”

“We’re going to be announcing those very soon, and they do involve the cartoons of Muhammad,” he responded.

CNN, apparently after conducting no background research about their guest, asked Spencer if he plans to work with the Muslim community in Boston (4:15) to fight extremist views present there. He responded by attacking the Islamic Society of Boston, saying the mosque “needs to be investigated, not partnered with.”

In classic Spencer fashion, he closed by asking casting doubt on all Muslims, asking, “Where are the Muslims in Boston who are protesting against the Islamic Society of Boston?”

This is not the first time CNN has failed to provide critical coverage in an apparent attempt to get a scoop or exclusive interview. As the New York Times pointed out in 2013, the network was tarnished in the aftermath of its sloppy reporting after the Boston Marathon bombing, falling into many of the same traps that caught them in this interview with Spencer.

Writing for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald pointed out similar problems with a lack of critical reporting in the early phases of media coverage of this story:

“Literally within hours of the killing, both the Boston and national media had uncritically published multiple, wholly uncorroborated accusations about Rahim based solely on the claims of the law enforcement agencies that had just killed him. Some law enforcement officials were even granted anonymity by these journalists in order to smear their victim. Rahim was almost instantly convicted by the media of being a dangerous terrorist preparing to carry out an ISIS-inspired attack.”

In the words of Murtaza Hussain: “Apparently all you have to do to defuse outrage over killing someone is apply the gangster or terrorist label to the still-warm dead body.”

He added: “14 years after 9/11 law enforcement can kill someone in the street, suggest they were part of a ‘terror network’, and media will just move on.”

Watch the interview here.

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