Fox News is expressing unfounded “concerns” about the developer of an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center who has recently purchased other buildings in the area. The network spent years smearing the center as a potential haven for terrorists and objecting to its construction with anti-Muslim bigotry.
Fox host Patti Ann Browne reported on Fox & Friends First that "[t]here are new concerns this morning the money man behind the ground zero mosque may be planning a mega mosque" after Sharif El-Gamal, who developed the planned Islamic community center called Park51, bought another building in downtown Manhattan that gives him control of several adjacent properties.
Fox News didn't say why rumors of a possible “mega mosque” would create “concerns,” but the network has a history of Islamophobic attacks against El-Gamal and the Islamic community center known as Park51 when it was being planned for the same area.
In August 2010, Fox campaigned against Park51 by labeling it as a potential haven for terrorists. Former Fox News contributor Dick Morris claimed that it would become a “command center for terrorists” and would be used to “train and recruit Sharia law advocates who become terrorists.” A year later, Morris said that Park 51 would “train the same kind of terrorists” as the 9-11 hijackers. Fox host Eric Bolling said it could be “a meeting place for ... some of the biggest terrorist minds.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that the building could harbor a terrorist cell. Fox News also strained to tie one of Park51's financial backers to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.
Fox guests also compared Park51 to a monument to the 9-11 terrorists and likened it to monuments to past enemies of America. On Happening Now in August 2010, Jay Sekulow called it “a 15-story monument to what happened on 9-11” and likened it to “a monument to kamikaze pilots at the site of the Arizona at Pearl Harbor.” Former Fox contributor Newt Gingrich said of the building: “Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.” Jeanine Pirro, who is now a Fox News host, smeared Park 51 by saying, “if you're a student of history, you know that mosques are often built to trumpet their victories.”
Fox News figures also argued that Muslims in downtown Manhattan shouldn't exercise their freedom of religion in the area. Fox host Steve Doocy suggested that the Park51 developers show “sensitivity” and asked "[w]hy does it have to be so close" to the World Trade Center site, saying that "[t]here are a whole bunch" of mosques elsewhere in New York City. Gingrich said on Fox & Friends that “if they want to build this mosque in the South Bronx, I'm all for it.” Former Fox News contributor Sarah Palin called Park 51 “a knife in the collective heart of Americans” and said “we are all about religious tolerance” but suggested that Americans wanted the center to be moved “down the road.”
As Fox News was engaging in its campaign against Park51, bigoted protests sprung up to oppose the site and other Islamic properties around the nation, and acts of violence were committed against mosque properties. It remains to be seen whether Fox News will return to its history of Islamophobia as it covers a possible new mosque in downtown Manhattan.