Fox News aired a video of conservative attorney Jordan Sekulow claiming an imprisoned pastor's conversion to Christianity is the reason President Obama has “been silent” on the case, even after Sekulow praised statements from the White House and State Department in support of the pastor.
On Fox & Friends, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes aired a video of Jordan Sekulow, a frequent Fox guest and Executive Director of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), discussing the case of pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran, reportedly due to his Christian faith. In the video, Sekulow interviews Abedini's wife who had not been contacted directly by President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.
After the interview, Sekulow declared: “I believe the government's been silent on this case with Pastor Saeed Abedini, the reason why the actual executive branch leaders have not spoken out [...] [is] because he converted from Islam to Christianity.” The following voice-over claims that “the only public acknowledgement came in December, when the administration said they were aware of the case and called for his release.” Starnes also highlighted the claims in a post on his blog titled “Obama Ignores American Christian Held By Iranians.”
But Fox failed to note that both the White House and State Department have issued statements in support of Abedini's release, statements that Sekulow himself praised in a January 25 article on the ACLJ website: “we applaud both the State Department and the White House for these very strong statements. [...] Thanks to the State Department and White House for their statements today and involvement to secure Pastor Saeed's freedom.”
In the January 25 press briefing, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland condemned Iran's actions and called on “the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and to release him.” White House spokesperson Jay Carney also addressed the case in his press briefing that same day:
CARNEY: Well, I can tell you a couple of things. One, that we remain concerned about Saeed Abedini, who is, as you mentioned, detained in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. The State Department is in close contact with his family and is actively engaged on this case. As you know, Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day to present his defense. And earlier this week, Mr. Abedini was not allowed to attend his own trial, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of that trial. We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom or religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini.