Ingraham's backtrack on Park51 is based on falsehoods and smears

On her radio show, Laura Ingraham attempted to explain her evolving position on Park51, the Islamic cultural center proposed near Ground Zero, saying that while she previously told one of the co-founders she “like[ed] what you're trying to do,” “legitimate questions” have since arisen about the project. However, Ingraham's “legitimate questions” are nothing but the same smears and falsehoods that conservative pundits have been pushing for weeks.

In 8 months, Ingraham went from “I like what you're trying to do” to “the terrorists have won”

In December 2009, Ingraham told Park51 co-founder Kahn: “I like what you're trying to do.” While guest-hosting The O'Reilly Factor on December 21, 2009, Ingraham interviewed Daisy Kahn, Park51 co-founder and wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Ingraham told Kahn that she couldn't “find many people who really have a problem” with Park51, and asked why they chose to build the center near Ground Zero. After Kahn responded that they chose that space as a “blow to the extremists,” Ingraham responded, “I know your group takes a moderate approach to Americanizing people, assimilating people, which I applaud. I think that's fantastic.” Ingraham concluded the interview by stating, “I like what you're trying to do, and Ms. Kahn, we appreciate it. And come on my radio show sometime.” From The O'Reilly Factor:

INGRAHAM: Let's talk about the Islamic center at Ground Zero. Questions -- I can't find many people who really have a problem with it. Bloomberg for it. You got rabbis in New York saying they don't have a problem with it. Why near Ground Zero? Why did you choose that space?

KHAN: Well, I think the closeness of the center to Ground Zero, first and foremost, is a blow to the extremists. And you know, we Muslims are really fed up, Laura, of having to be defined by the actions of the extremists. You know, we are law-abiding citizens. We are faithful people. We are very good Americans. And we need to project a different message of Islam, one of tolerance, love, and the kinds of commonalities we have with different faith communities. And the center will be dedicated to promoting what it means to be Muslim and what it also means to be American, and that is the real message that needs to get out.

INGRAHAM: When you see surveys -- and I know your group takes a moderate approach to Americanizing people, assimilating people, which I applaud. I think that's fantastic.


INGRAHAM: Let's get into what your husband said in 2004, because this is a sticking point with a lot of people. Sydney Morning Herald interview, he was quoted as saying it was Christians in World War II who bombed civilians in Dresden and Hiroshima, neither of which were military targets. He placed some blame on Christians for starting mass attacks on civilians. That disturbs a lot of people. A lot of American soldiers died liberating Muslims around the world in Kuwait and Bosnia, and they didn't appreciate that.

KHAN: Well, I don't think he meant it that way. I think what was trying to say is that, you know, when we take -- when we have a small crime, and then there is such a huge response to that, where there's a calamity on such a large scale, that, you know, we have to look at what the law says. And Christians -- Christianity is defined by love. When things are done in the name of Christianity like, you know, the Crusades --

INGRAHAM: Well, we didn't -- we didn't wage World War II in the name of Christianity.

KHAN: No, I'm not --

INGRAHAM: That's a difference. I mean, our fighter pilots weren't screaming, “Allah Akbar,” you know, or the equivalent in English, obviously, “Praise be to God.”

KHAN: Yes.

INGRAHAM: I think -- I'd amend that if I were he. I'd kind of go back and re-do that statement. But I like what you're trying to do, and Ms. Khan, we appreciate it. And come on my radio show sometime.

But in August 2010, Ingraham said “the terrorists have won with the way” Park51 “has gone down.” On the August 4 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Ingraham stated of the project: “I say the terrorists have won with the way this has gone down. Six hundred feet from where thousands of our fellow Americans were incinerated in the name of political Islam, and we're supposed to be -- we're supposed to be considered intolerant if we're not cheering this?” She added that “it's a finger in the eye, I think, of New York. ... This is sacred ground, OK? And I don't think people across the country are protesting” mosques. Ingraham continued: “I think the question we have to ask, George [Stephanopoulos], is why? Why do they want to build a $100 million, 15-story mosque, Islamic center?”From Good Morning America:

Ingraham's turnaround relies on smears of Rauf

Ingraham's “legitimate questions”: Rauf blamed “America for 9-11” and is “associated” with Imam who blamed Jews for 9-11. On her August 23 radio program, Ingraham purported to explain the evolution of her opinion on Park51 by claiming that during her December interview, she thought Khan and the community center were “interesting” because she likes “the idea of bringing people into the fold, the American fold.” Ingraham then stated that in the time since her interview, “a lot of questions emerged.” Ingraham's “legitimate questions” included the claim that Rauf was “blaming America for 9-11, blaming America for bin Laden,” and that one “of these Imams at an Islamic center he's associated with in Manhattan” stated “that the Jews were behind 9-11.” She later added: “We have a healthy skepticism of people who won't answer questions,” and asked, “Will the real Imam bridge builder please step forward?”

Imam who made anti-Semitic statement had departed Rauf's cultural center; head of center's board was “outraged” by his comments. Contrary to Ingraham's suggestion that the Imam who said Jews were responsible for 9-11 is still “associated” with Rauf, Muhammad Gemeaha, the Imam who reportedly made those remarks during an October 4, 2001, interview with, was reported to have departed from the Islamic cultural center prior to his interview. Furthermore, the head of the Islamic center board, of which Rauf is a member, was reportedly “outraged” by the comments, saying they did “not represent at all the policy and the beliefs of the Islamic Cultural Center.”

Rauf's comments about 9-11 are mainstream, as shown by op-ed by 9-11 Commission chair and vice chair. Ingraham's accusation that Rauf was “blaming America for 9-11” is apparently a reference to Rauf's comments in 2001 that “the United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” However, his comments aren't out of the mainstream; 9-11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton wrote in a September 8, 2007, Washington Post op-ed: “We face a rising tide of radicalization and rage in the Muslim world -- a trend to which our own actions have contributed.” Additionally, the former vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council and Glenn Beck have previously made similar comments.

Memo to Ingraham: local mosque protests have occurred nationwide. Contrary to Ingraham's claim on Good Morning America that the issue is just with “sacred ground, OK? And I don't think people across the country are protesting” mosques, protests against local mosques have occurred nationwide in the wake of the Park51 controversy.