Media False Equivalence: Clinton's ISIS Statement Compared To Trump's Dangerous 9/11 Lies

Media False Equivalence: Clinton's ISIS Statement Compared To Trump's Dangerous 9/11 Lies

››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

Media are comparing Hillary Clinton's debate claim that ISIS recruiters are "showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam" to Trump's falsehood that thousands of Muslims celebrated the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Desperate to declare that both parties are engaged in the same behavior, these outlets are pushing a false equivalence that ignores that Trump's bigoted comments are fomenting and sought to capitalize on anti-Muslim sentiment that experts agree is being used by ISIS to attract recruits, while Clinton's comment sought to bring attention to that behavior.

Hillary Clinton Noted Trump's Inflammatory Rhetoric Helps ISIS Recruitment

Hillary Clinton: ISIS Is "Showing Videos Of Donald Trump Insulting Islam And Muslims In Order To Recruit More Radical Jihadists." During the December 19 Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said that ISIS is using videos of Donald Trump's "discriminatory messages" about Muslims as a recruitment tool, calling Trump ISIS's "best recruiter":

Hillary Clinton came out swinging at Donald Trump during the Democratic debate Saturday night, calling him ISIS's "best recruiter."

Former Secretary of State Clinton was asked whether Trump's thousands of fans are all wrong in their support for him. "A lot of people are understandably reacting out of fear and anxiety," she said. "Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make them think there are easy answers to very complex questions," she said.

Clinton also said that the country needed "to make sure the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don't fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going out people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists." [TIME12/19/15]

Clinton Campaign Expanded Upon Clinton's Statement, Noting That She Was Referencing ISIS Social Media Activity. Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and spokeswoman Jennifer Pamieri expanded upon the candidate's claim on Sunday morning political talk shows the next day, explaining that Trump's comments may not appear in public recruiting videos but are circulating on jihadists' social media as a recruiting tool:

Sunday morning also saw Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri work to walk Clinton's statement back. Appearing on ABC's This Week, Palmieri said that Clinton "didn't have a particular video in mind" but was instead referring to jihadists' social-media activity, a line Podesta echoed on NBC's Meet the Press, where he insisted that "if you look at what's going on [on social media], they are definitely pointing at Mr. Trump." The Clinton campaign has also highlighted comments from the SITE Intelligence Group's Rita Katz, who told NBC News earlier this month that across ISIS's social media, which SITE tracks, "They love [Trump] from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric ... They follow everything Donald Trump says. When he says, 'No Muslims should be allowed in America,' they tell people, 'We told you America hates Muslims and here is proof.'" Katz then subsequently confirmed to the Washington Post that "ISIS didn't feature Trump in a video, but ISIS supporters and recruiters have used Trump's rhetoric to promote ISIS' ideas and agenda." [New York Magazine12/20/15]

NBC News: "Donald Trump's Muslim Bashing Aids Cause Of Terror Networks, Say Experts." NBC News previously reported that experts say Trump's "controversial proposal for barring all Muslims from entering the United States is being used by the head-chopping fanatics and other terrorist groups like al Qaeda to attract recruits by painting the land of the free as opposed to Islam," citing the use of his comments in ISIS social media. From the December 8 article":

Donald Trump's call for closing America's door to Muslims is opening a window of opportunity for groups like ISIS, counter-terrorism experts and human rights advocates say.

The Republican presidential candidate's controversial proposal for barring all Muslims from entering the United States is being used by the head-chopping fanatics and other terrorist groups like al Qaeda to attract recruits by painting the land of the free as opposed to Islam, experts told NBC News on Tuesday.

"They love him from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric," said Rita Katz with the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the social media activities of Islamic terrorist groups. [NBCNews.com, 12/8/15]

Media False Equivalence: Clinton "Videos" Statement "Reminiscent" Of Trump's Claim That Thousands Of American Muslims Celebrated 9/11 Attacks

Associated Press: Clinton's Statement Is "Reminiscent" Of Trump's 9/11 Claims. In a December 20 article, the Associated Press stated Clinton's claim about ISIS was "an assertion reminiscent of Trump's insistence that video showed thousands of Muslims in the U.S. cheering the 9/11 attacks," adding that Trump's claim has been "debunked for weeks":

Hillary Clinton had no evidence to back up her claim in the latest Democratic presidential debate that the Islamic State group is using video of Donald Trump to recruit Muslims to its cause.

It's an assertion reminiscent of Trump's insistence that video showed thousands of Muslims in the U.S. cheering the 9/11 attacks, which has been debunked for weeks. During Saturday's debate, Clinton stated that the Republican presidential contender is "becoming ISIS's best recruiter," with the group attracting people by showing videos of him. [Associated Press, 12/20/15]

FoxNews.com: "Like Trump's Claim That 'Thousands' Of Muslims In America Celebrated 9/11" Clinton's Statement  Has Been "Found To Be Lacking Concrete Evidence."  A December 21 FoxNews.com article compared the two claims noted, "Like Trump's claim that 'thousands' of Muslims in America celebrated 9/11, this claim by Clinton was swiftly vetted by fact-checkers -- and found to be lacking concrete evidence":

Clinton alleged during the debate in New Hampshire that Trump is becoming "ISIS' best recruiter."

"They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists," she said.

Like Trump's claim that "thousands" of Muslims in America celebrated 9/11, this claim by Clinton was swiftly vetted by fact-checkers -- and found to be lacking concrete evidence.

PolitiFact rated the claim "false."

The outfit noted that the Clinton campaign cited an NBC News article quoting the SITE Intelligence Group's Rita Katz. In the piece, Katz said of terror groups, "They follow everything Donald Trump says. ... When he says, 'No Muslims should be allowed in America,' they tell people, 'We told you America hates Muslims and here is proof.'"

Another analyst in that piece said Trump's "anti-Muslim comments" would be used by ISIS social media to "demonize" the U.S. and draw in recruits.

Yet such comments refer to expectations about what ISIS will do - and not what ISIS is currently doing. [FoxNews.com, 12/21/15]

But Media Have Previously Made The Same Point As Clinton That Trump's Rhetoric "Feeds Into The ISIS Narrative"

NBC News' Richard Engel: Trump's Policy "Just Feeds Into The ISIS Narrative," And Presents "A National Security Issue." In a December 7 appearance on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel slammed Trump's proposal to ban foreign Muslims from the United States, saying it "feeds into the ISIS narrative," and "it is a national security issue." Engel explained that ISIS claims "the world is against Muslims and we, ISIS, are defending Muslims. So here comes Mr. Trump and says ISIS is right":

RICHARD ENGEL: This is not small ball, actually. It would be interesting to say oh this is just fun. This is just more, you know, he's trying to score a few points. But the world watches this. The world sees the leading political candidate from one party making these kind of statements and still doing well and having these rallies. And those vox pops you showed where people are saying, yes, we need to do them. Send them back home. Those are going around the world right now, and people realize this person is leading in the polls. That must be what Americans think. I was today with an ambassador from the Middle East. Today. And we were talking exactly about this subject. And he said, well, people in our country watch what is going on, and it makes us very concerned. So from the world perspective, it is absolutely an image, an impression, a black spot on our collective foreign policy and our conscience. And it also just -- it feeds into the ISIS narrative. It is a national security issue.

RACHEL MADDOW: That's what I wanted to ask you about. The reaction is this is what ISIS wants to hear. You hear that a lot.

ENGEL: Of course it is.

MADDOW: How does that work? How, spell that out, why this is good for ISIS.

ENGEL: ISIS says, join the ISIS cause because the world is against Muslims and we, ISIS, are defending Muslims. So here comes Mr. Trump and says, ISIS is right. Join the ISIS team or join other radicals, or you're going to be deported, or you're going to be kicked out of the country. I kept saying, thinking to myself while he was making these statements, what exactly would this look like? I spend a lot of time on planes. So you come to the airport. Are there people standing there asking you questions? Are you a Muslim? How exactly do you prove it? Do you prove a negative? What do you know about Islam? Tell me what you think about Mohammed. Does that mean people from Indonesia, people from every corner of the Muslim world, over a billion people, including U.S. citizens?

MADDOW: The idea that U.S. citizens would have nowhere to come home to.

ENGEL: I don't understand where it's even coming from. I understand there is a fear. I understand there is a concern about ISIS. But to say that's it, no member of a particular faith in the country. It's irresponsible from a national security point of view. [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show12/7/15]

New York Times' Frank Bruni: Trump "Has Given The Islamic State ... A Piece Of Propaganda As Big As Any Of His Resorts." In a December 8 op-ed, New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni stated that Trump's policy proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States "has practically collaborated with the enemy by playing into a narrative of Muslim persecution":

But what Trump just did took pressure off the president by redirecting the conversation from his tentativeness to Trump's insane overreach. We should tell him that, and we should add that he has practically collaborated with the enemy by playing into a narrative of Muslim persecution and a grand war between civilizations.

He has given the Islamic State and other barbarians a piece of propaganda as big as any of his resorts and as shimmering as any of his office towers. [The New York Times12/8/15]

American Prospect's Robert Kuttner: "Every Time Trump Disparages Muslims Who Are Not Radicals, He Increases The Chances That Some Will Turn Into Radicals." In a December 8 article, American Prospect co-founder and editor Robert Kuttner called out Donald Trump for disparaging Muslims, writing that his "collected speeches are like an ISIS recruiting video":

[T]here is a second way in which Donald Trump and other right-wing Republicans are ISIS's best friends. Every time Trump disparages Muslims who are not radicals, he increases the chances that some will turn into radicals. Trump's collected speeches are like an ISIS recruiting video.

Take a close look, and none of the right-wing bravado adds up to a serious program for containing or destroying Islamist radicalism, either in the Middle East or at home. But with Americans increasingly afraid, it may have more appeal than rational leadership. [American Prospect12/8/15]

ThinkProgress: Trump's "Rhetoric Bolsters The Message Of Extremist Groups Like ISIS." In a December 8 article, ThinkProgress' Justin Salhani explained that "experts say [Trump's] rhetoric bolsters the message of extremist groups like ISIS." Salhani wrote that Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals help "ISIS gain support by convincing vulnerable youths prone to ideological radicalization that the west has an aversion to Islam":

Trump's latest proposal is driven with national security in mind. A couple in San Bernardino, California went on a killing spree last week, killing 14 people. ISIS later claimed the couple as followers, while authorities say the wife pledged allegiance to the group on her Facebook page prior to the attacks. In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and with the Paris attacks still fresh in mind, Trump claims that Muslims pose a "dangerous threat."

While Trump assumes that stopping Muslims from entering the U.S. would boost domestic security, experts say such rhetoric bolsters the message of extremist groups like ISIS and, in correlation, increases animosity and potential retribution attacks against the U.S.

"This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for -- to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims," Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland who researches what motivates people to become terrorists, told the Washington Post. "Then ISIS will be able to say, 'I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.'"

One of ISIS' primary talking points is about eliminating the "grayzone" of coexistence between Muslims and western society. ISIS gains support by convincing vulnerable youths prone to ideological radicalization that the west has an aversion to Islam and, by extension, their families, their various cultures and societies, and them as individuals.

"Muslims in the West will soon find themselves between one of two choices," the group published in their online magazine, Dabiq. [ThinkProgress, 12/8/15]

MSNBC Analyst And Counterterrorism Expert: "We Are Standing By Right Now To See An ISIS Video Come Up With Donald Trump." On the December 8 edition of MSNBC's MTP Daily, MSNBC analyst and counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance explained to host Chuck Todd how Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric is helping ISIS jeopardizing U.S. intelligence missions:

CHUCK TODD (HOST): And before I let you go, how serious is -- I always hear that, you know, be careful what these politicians say of Donald Trump, it could be used for -- as ISIS propaganda. And some of the criticism of Trump has noted that. Some of the -- how much does ISIS use our political debate, maybe about rhetoric on Muslims, in their own propaganda?

MALCOLM NANCE: They use it extensively. As a matter of fact, I think we are standing by right now, to see an ISIS video come up with Donald Trump, you know, saying his rhetoric about blocking Muslims or banning Muslims from coming from coming to the United States. And saying, we told you this, the khalifa, you know, the caliphate is here for you, this is not your world. That is the land of the kufr. We are the land of the loyalists. And by doing that -- they not only compromise the, you know, people who may want to radicalize the United States and push them off the fence -- there are intelligence missions which are being carried out by officers in a covert role that are being compromised right now. We have allies who may look at us and say, do you really believe this? You know, you're Central Intelligence Agency officer --

TODD: You feel like there is a little bit of sideways looking going on now for everybody?

NANCE: Absolutely. They're looking sideways at them. And we on the ground, our soldiers are endangered by this kind of rhetoric. They need to stop it. And they need to understand that the defense of this nation stops, you know, at the water's edge. [MSNBC, MTP Daily12/8/15]

Trump's Inflammatory 9/11 Claim Has Been Thoroughly Debunked

NY Times: NJ Attorney General In 2001 "Found The Reports To Be Bogus," Said It "Never Happened." The New York Times reported that John J. Farmer, the New Jersey attorney general at the time of the September 11 attacks, "ordered an investigation that very day" into reports that Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating "and found the reports to be bogus." Farmer, who later served as senior counsel to the September 11 commission, said of the rumor, "False report. Never happened":

How alarmed were New Jersey officials by reports of Muslims dancing in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson on Sept. 11, 2001, to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center?

They feared riots would break out and were ready to send in the National Guard and the State Police to preserve order.

But John J. Farmer Jr., then the New Jersey attorney general and the state's chief law enforcement officer, said on Tuesday that he ordered an investigation that very day and found the reports to be bogus, more wild stories born in the stricken hours after the attacks.

[...]

Reporters were unable to find any evidence for his story, but Mr. Trump stuck with it in a television interview on Sunday. "It did happen," he said. "I saw it. It was on television."

Few people, if any, could address the circumstances more definitively than Mr. Farmer, who went on to serve as senior counsel to the Sept. 11 commission.

[...]

And then there was the wisp of a story that Mr. Farmer said was most disturbing of all: "That Muslims were dancing on the rooftops and in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson."

Indeed, pockets of radical Islamists had set up in Jersey City in the past. The 1993 World Trade Center bombers rented a van and stored chemicals and fertilizers in that city.

Open jubilation at the mass death, Mr. Farmer said, might quickly be followed by rioting and more deaths. "If true, we would have had to mobilize the State Police and National Guard and locked the place down," he said.

"We followed up on that report instantly because of its implications," he added. "The word came back quickly from Jersey City, later from Paterson. False report. Never happened." [The New York Times11/24/15]

Wash. Post Fact Checker Called The Claim "Another Case Of Trump's Overactive Imagination." In a November 22 fact check, The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler wrote that "an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing" showing American Muslims celebrating the September 11 attacks, and that Trump "must provide real evidence or else issue an apology":

Trump says that he saw this with his own eyes on television and that it was well covered. But an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing. There were some reports of celebrations overseas, in Muslim countries, but nothing that we can find involving the Arab populations of New Jersey except for unconfirmed reports. (Some conspiracy Web sites cite a column by controversial blogger and commentator Debbie Schlussel, who is highly critical of Muslims, that makes a reference to an MTV broadcast of protests and riots in Paterson, N.J.; this claim has never been authenticated.) As the Newark Star-Ledger put it in an article on Sept. 18, 2001, "rumors of rooftop celebrations of the attack by Muslims here proved unfounded."

[...]

This appears to be another case of Trump's overactive imagination, much like his baseless claim that the George W. Bush White House tried to "silence" his Iraq war opposition in 2003. We looked and looked -- and could find absolutely no evidence to support his claim.

But that was merely a matter of self-aggrandizement, whereas now Trump has defamed the Muslim communities of New Jersey. He cannot simply assert something so damning; he must provide some real evidence or else issue an apology. [The Washington Post11/22/15]

Politifact: Trump's Story "Flies In The Face Of All The Evidence We Could Find." In a November 22 factcheck, Politifact reported that "an exhaustive search of newspaper and television transcripts" found no evidence to back up Trump's claim. They added that his story "defies basic logic" and "flies in the face of all the evidence we could find":

We conducted an exhaustive search of newspaper and television transcripts on LexisNexis, looking for reports from September 2001 through December 2001 that made any mention of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks.

Regarding Jersey City, which Trump mentioned specifically, we found two uncorroborated and unsourced mentions. Neither begins to approach the scale Trump described.

[...]

Trump said he "watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" as the World Trade Center collapsed.

This defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence.

Instead, all we found were a couple of news articles that described rumors of celebrations that were either debunked or unproven.

Trump's recollection of events in New Jersey in the hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks flies in the face of all the evidence we could find. We rate this statement Pants on Fire. [Politifact.com, 11/22/15]

NY Times: MTV Video Trump Cited Actually Shows "A Very Different Event" Than What Trump Described. The New York Timesreported that the MTV video cited by Trump, which has been released by MTV News, in fact debunks his claim. The MTV News report "looked into rumors of celebrations in Paterson and found just two sources," one of whom reported seeing "about a dozen children, 14 years or younger." That source later said "their behavior seemed more like routine 'acting out'":

Reporters who have searched for, and failed to find, any trace of the video Donald J. Trump claims to have seen on Sept. 11, 2001, showing "thousands and thousands" of American Muslims cheering in New Jersey as the World Trade Center collapsed, have been repeatedly assured by the candidate's supporters on social networks that such footage does exist.

As evidence, many of Mr. Trump's supporters have pointed to a detailed account of a television report on the reaction to the attack in an Arab-American neighborhood of Paterson, N.J., described by Debbie Schlussel, a conservative political activist and blogger who is deeply critical of Muslims.

Writing on her blog in 2013, Ms. Schlussel insisted that "even leftist MTV News (yes, that MTV) broadcast news reports showing thousands of Palestinian Muslims outside Paterson's town hall, cheering the 9/11 attacks against America (and starting a riot using cement garbage cans and metal poles, which they used to attack police)."

Over the holiday weekend, MTV News dug out the original report from its archives, and posted it online with a new interview of the sole witness to what appears to have been a very different event than the one Mr. Trump, and Ms. Schlussel, have been saying they watched on television. (took out the emphasis)

The MTV News report, first broadcast on Nov. 17, 2001, looked into rumors of celebrations in Paterson and found just two sources: the witness account of a resident, Emily Acevedo -- who recalled seeing about a dozen children, 14 years old or younger, "chanting and raving" and "saying 'Burn America,'" outside the South Paterson library on Main Street that night -- and a third-hand account from Curtis Sliwa, the host of a live radio show on WABC-FM in New York, whose listeners phoned in to say that they had heard of "people celebrating" on that same street.

Ms. Acevedo, who was a senior in high school at the time, told MTV last week that she was not sure if the rowdy kids were celebrating. In hindsight, she said, their behavior seemed more like routine "acting out."

"What I saw that night," she recalled, "is not anything, any different than would've happened on any other summer night, on any other day where school was let out early. These were kids acting out because they had the time to."

Those accounts square with research into unsubstantiated rumors of mass celebrations of the attacks by Arab-Americans published in 2005 by Gary Alan Fine and Irfan Khawaja, a professor at Felician University in Lodi, N.J., in the book "Rumor Mill: The Social Impact of Rumor and Legend." [The New York Times12/2/15]

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