Conservative media are attacking actor Ben Affleck for comments he made objecting to disparaging generalizations about Islam during a heated exchange with HBO host Bill Maher, using their dialogue as ammunition to continue claiming that the religion has a unique connection to extremism and that Muslims have not done enough to root out religious zealotry.
Maher And Guests Spar During Debate Over Islamic Extremism
On the October 3 edition of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher and author Sam Harris sparred with other panelists over the merits of Maher and Harris' characterizations of Islam. Maher and Harris defended their commentary against charges of "Islamophobia" and "bigotry toward Muslims as people," while Affleck and fellow panelists Nicholas Kristof and Michael Steele expressed concern that the two were conflating the beliefs of relative minorities with those of the broader Muslim population worldwide, which is about 1.6 billion people. [HBO, Real Time with Bill Maher, 10/3/14, via YouTube]
Conservative Media Promote Maher's Anti-Islam Sentiment, Condemn Affleck
Fox Guest: "Imam Ben Affleck" Was "Defending The Theocrats." On the October 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and guest Dr. Zuhdi Jasser attacked Affleck for "defending the theocrats, the status quo" against supposedly necessary moderate reform. Jasser derisively referred to "Imam Ben Affleck" for arguing against charges that Islam is uniquely prone to violence and extremism. Jasser, a cardiologist, is also the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a group frequently touted by conservative media as embodying a moderate Muslim perspective. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/7/14]
Fox's Webb: Affleck "Lives In This Unicorn-Like World" And Islam Is "An Intolerable Religion." On the October 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer was joined by Fox contributors Leslie Marshall and David Webb to discuss Affleck's comments. While Marshall joined Affleck in warning against making a "sweeping generalization against a religion," Webb accused Affleck of living in a "unicorn-like world" where "what he believes to be true, is." Webb also called Islam "an intolerable religion" when it comes to Muslims' reactions to perceived blasphemy. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/7/14]
Fox's Gutfeld: Affleck Is "A Caliphate Crusader." On the October 6 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld opened a segment on the Affleck-Maher exchange by labeling Affleck "a caliphate crusader" for not accepting the premise of anti-Islam sentiments. Gutfeld claimed that Affleck was "burdened by lack of facts" and implied that Affleck's "tantrum" was an example of how "the inability to separate identification of evil from platitudes on tolerance is what enables evil to thrive." [Fox News, The Five, 10/6/14]
Fox's Hemmer: "How Do You Define What's Bigotry And What's Just Reality?" On the October 6 edition of America's Newsroom, Hemmer defended Maher against claims that his sentiments are bigoted, asking, "How do you define what's bigotry and what's just reality?" Hemmer's implication that Islam is rooted to radicalism and religious extremism was rebuffed by both guests, political strategists Bernard Whitman and Tyler Harber, during the segment. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/6/14, via Think Progress]
Laura Ingraham: "What Is It Going To Take" For Liberals Like Affleck To "Wake Up" To The Threat Of Islamic Extremism? On the October 6 edition of her radio show, Laura Ingraham detailed atrocities committed in the name of Islam by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, and asked listeners "what is it going to take" for liberals like Affleck to "wake up" to militant affiliates of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 10/6/14]
NRO's Lowry: Affleck Refuses To Acknowledge "Frank Truths About The Muslim World." In an October 7 article for National Review Online, National Review editor Rich Lowry attacked Affleck for his alleged refusal to accept "frank truths about the Muslim world." Lowry weaved this into a larger attack on "a dominant tendency within liberalism":
Affleck simply couldn't handle the truth. He kept on insisting it is just a few bad apples who think this way. At one point, he tried to wave Maher and Harris off with a condemnation of the Iraq War, positing an implicit moral equivalence between an overly idealistic war of liberation and the stoning of apostates.
Affleck obviously isn't a public official or a public intellectual. But he represents a dominant tendency within liberalism. Imagine a State Department staffed by less-glamorous Ben Afflecks. Imagine a president of the United States who shares his instincts. This is the Obama administration. It's why, in part, it has always been so reluctant to speak of Islamic terrorism and extremism. It's why the president says the Islamic State is not Islamic. [National Review Online, 10/7/14]