Fox host Sean Hannity invited extremist anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller to debate radical imam Anjem Choudary on his show, disingenuously creating a false dichotomy with two extreme figures in a debate on Islam and free speech.
On the May 6 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity hosted Pamela Geller and Anjem Choudary to discuss Geller's anit-Islam cartoon contest in Garland, TX, the scene of a shooting on May 3. Choudary said he supports the death penalty for those who draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad and for people who leave Islam. Geller claimed President Obama has “created an environment that raised the stakes” on terror in the United States.
Choudary is a radical Islamic preacher from the United Kingdom, and has links to Britons who have fought in Syria for the Islamic State. The advocacy group Hope Not Hate has described Choudary as “the single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history,” saying he has “facilitated or encouraged” many Muslims to join the anti-Assad militants in Syria. Muslim groups in the United Kingdom have also denounced Choudary. The Muslim Council of Britain called him “a self-serving publicity seeker,” and the Islamic Society of Britain said Choudary “has no legitimacy in the Muslim community.”
Despite Choudary's clearly extreme views -- for example, he described ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “the caliph of all Muslims and the prince of the believers” -- Hannity has repeatedly invited him onto his show. In January, Hannity hosted Choudary to discuss the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
Pamela Geller is an extreme anti-Muslim activist who runs the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik cited her work frequently in his “manifesto.” She has claimed that President Obama has "sided with" terrorists and warned that teaching Arabic in US schools was the “spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States of America.” In 2010, she campaigned against the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” which she described as a “triumphal mosque” on “conquered lands.”
In an email to Media Matters, Heidi Beirich, the director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, said of the segment:
“We're disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that Sean Hannity would offer a national platform to two well-known haters. Ms. Geller and Mr. Choudary represent nothing more than an extreme political fringe. Their divisive behavior is made even worse by the fact that Ms. Geller is now positioning herself to be a defender of free speech, while Mr. Choudary is purporting to speak on behalf of all Muslims.”
UPDATE: In a statement, Kalia Abiade, advocacy director of Center for New Community, which seeks to “counter racism and organized bigotry,” told Media Matters of the segment:
“It is temping to dismiss both Geller and Choudary as outrageous peddlers of hate, but as we've seen, their words and actions have real consequences. This was not a real debate; it was a performance by two people who disregard basic human dignity. By giving them airtime, Sean Hannity and Fox News are giving these extremists the platform they want to spread their message and the visibility they need to stay relevant.”