Fox News' Megyn Kelly dishonestly criticized the Obama administration for allegedly endorsing an anti-terror handbook which advises against referring to terrorists as “jihadis,” as it “emboldens them,” failing to mention that the Bush administration made a decision to stop using the word “jihadist” to describe terrorists in 2008.
On the October 15 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly hosted National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy to discuss the State Department's Twitter “endorsement” of a handbook that aims to prevent the recruitment of young people by terrorist groups. Kelly quoted the handbook, which was created by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and two Canadian Muslim organizations, as saying jihad is “noble,” and said that “our State Department sends this out saying, enjoy.” McCarthy stated that this is “the position of the Obama administration. It has been from the beginning of the administration,” and criticized CIA chief John Brennan for saying in 2010 that “we can't use the word 'jihad' in connection with terrorism because jihad is a noble concept in Islam.”
But this shift in language used to discuss terrorism predates the Obama administration. In May 2008, UPI reported that “U.S. officials are being advised in internal government documents to avoid referring publicly to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups as Islamic or Muslim, and not to use terms like jihad or mujahedin, which ” unintentionally legitimize" terrorism." The report continued:
Instead of calling terror groups Muslim or Islamic, the guide suggests using words like totalitarian, terrorist or violent extremist -- “widely understood terms that define our enemies appropriately and simultaneously deny them any level of legitimacy.”
By employing the language the extremists use about themselves, the guide warns, officials can inadvertently help legitimize them in the eyes of Muslims.
“Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahedin' ... to describe the terrorists,” instructs the guide. “A mujahed, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war. In Arabic, jihad means 'striving in the path of God' and is used in many contexts beyond warfare. Calling our enemies Jihadis and their movement a global Jihad unintentionally legitimizes their actions.”
“There are some terms which al-Qaida wants us to use because they are helpful to them,” Daniel Sutherland, who runs the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, told United Press International in an interview.
“This is in no way an exercise in political correctness ... we are not watering down what we say.”
Fox has attacked the Obama administration for adopting this uncontroversial understanding of jihad in the past. In 2013, Sean Hannity asked if Brennan was “stupid and naïve” for describing jihad as a legitimate tenet of Islam. In 2010, Fox host Brian Kilmeade called a ban on references to jihad “insulting” -- again, without noting the Bush administration's similar policy, which former Bush advisers said laid the groundwork of the Obama administration policy.