It's been quite a morning on Fox & Friends.
Their big story of the day is the controversy over Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, whose invitation to speak at the Pentagon on National Day of Prayer is being protested because of Graham's past descriptions of Islam as an “evil” faith. They even hosted Graham to defend himself, and in the process he counseled Muslims that they “don't have to die in a car bomb,” doing much to validate the concerns about him speaking at a religious event.
But this is Fox & Friends we're talking about here, and they have a long history of promoting Christianity at the expense of other scarier, more dangerous beliefs (like Islam and atheism). And it was in that spirit that Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. came on to tell everyone that Graham's anti-Muslim comments were being “overblown,” and that we have to take into account certain mitigating factors.
These factors include:
- The protesting group “really dislikes evangelical Christians' involvement with the military.”
- Graham is being “throw[n] under the bus in order to achieve the White House's courting of the Muslim community.”
- Graham said that he “loves the Muslim people.”
- Graham's son serves as an Army Ranger in Iraq and has been wounded.
- Graham's an evangelical preacher, so he wants to “proselytize the world, including Muslims.”
- “We are in a war”
- Rashad Hussain, President Obama's envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, “disparaged our prosecution efforts here in the United States post-9-11.”
- “The climate is a tough one”
- Military chaplains have “died in battle” and “take an approach that's for our troops.”
- “After 9-11, a lot of folks were making those statements.”
Johnson concluded: “It doesn't make it right, it doesn't make it wrong. He is a human, he may have made a mistake, but do we condemn him now because he's a Christian preacher?”
Two things to point out here.
First: Yes, it does make it wrong. Calling an entire religion “evil” and telling Muslims that they're not obligated to “die in a car bomb” is wrong. There's nothing really too complicated about that one.
Second: I was not aware that Christian preachers who say controversial and inflammatory things were entitled to such leeway on Fox News. I can think of one controversial and inflammatory Christian preacher in particular to whom Fox News didn't really extend the benefit of the doubt.
Video of the segment below, which you really have to watch to appreciate just how dissembling and discursive Johnson's defense of Graham's religious bigotry was: