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Fox&Friends Use Child Custody Issue To Bash Islam?

Reported by Priscilla - August 31, 2009 -

There are those who say that if Fox News provides both sides of an issue it meets the requirements of “fair and balanced.” But if the “other side” of the coverage takes one particular side which is full of unrebutted falsehoods, the fairness and balance isn’t, well, fair and balanced. This is illustrated by the recent coverage of a teenage runaway, Rifqa Bary, an Ohio Muslim American who converted to Christianity and ran away to live with members of an evangelical Christian community whom she met on Facebook. She is claiming that if she returns home, her parents will kill her because she left Islam. The state of Florida has intervened and placed Rifqa in a foster home pending the outcome of court proceedings which could result in her being sent back to Ohio. As seen on the anti-Islam and Christian blogs, this is now a “culture war” which has galvanized conservative Christians in their ongoing jihad (whoops crusade) against the evil Muslim hordes who are trying to impose “Sharia” on virtuous American Christians. Given the Onward Christian Soldiers nature of Fox&Friends, it’s not surprising that their coverage of the issue is a bit biased. But then it’s really an “opinion show;” and as such, that absolves them of any requirement to provide the accuracy required in “real journalism.” Right? And regarding “fair and balanced,” – surely you jest!!!

"Balance" - part one. Last week, on the weekend afternoon news (or is it commentary?) show, Greg Jarrett interviewed two attorneys who were concerned about possible brainwashing of this girl by the Christian community. They recommended that if the judge doesn’t want to return her, “emancipation” should be considered. Jarrett didn't seem too pleased with their assessment and articulated concerns for the girl. Then Jane Skinner did a piece in which the Florida Fox reporter told both sides of the story. So far, so good. But wait – Fox News can’t waste an opportunity to show Islam in a bad light and with that in mind, what better vehicle to promote the propaganda than Fox&Friends which never wastes an opportunity to show persecuted Christians with the added bonus of scary Muslims. Suffice to say, Rifqa’s case has become a cause celebre in evangelical and anti Islam crowd. The police, courts, and social service personnel in Ohio say that there is no evidence to support Rifqa’s accusations. But you don’t hear about that on Fox&Friends who have done three segments which, in addition to supporting Rifqa’s allegations, also promote the meme of American Muslims as suspected terrorists.

"Balance" Part 2 - Weighing in on the case, on the August 21st Fox&Friends, was neo con and promoter of the “fear Islam” meme Frank Gaffney. Fox&Friend legal expert (?) Peter Johnson asked Gaffney if the girl was being returned “to her execution.” Gaffney said that this is a “test case for Sharia” and Islamic law says she is to be killed. (According to the Council on Foreign Relations, this isn’t true.) and that “she has ample grounds for concerns.” Gaffney even made the bizarre and unsubstantiated suggestion that someone from her mosque might kill her because this is “an intolerant mosque.” The chyron read “fleeing Sharia law in America? If teen sent back to Ohio teen may be killed.” He added that if she gets sent back to Sri Lanka (which is not a possibility as her parents are legally in the US) she may be killed. To Johnson’s question of “is there evidence that she has been the victim of reports of violence,” Gaffney said that there have been “ample reports” – a claim that is not substantiated by the Columbus Ohio police. Gaffney referred the viewers to “Atlas Shrugged” website which is an offshoot of the conservative Ayn Rand Foundation. (No bias there, no sireee) Gaffney claimed that Florida Governor Charlie Crist can intervene. The e-mail for Crist was provided. Gaffney asserted that this was a test case for “barbaric Sharia practices.” When Johnson said “there was no direct evidence” that she will be killed, Gaffney said that the possibility of her murder is a “reasonable prediction.”

It’s important to reinforce propaganda and on August 24th, neo con, darling of anti Islamic dominionist Christians, and promoter of the fear Islam card, Brigitte Gabriel was interviewed about the case. As noted by Fox&Friends she is the author of “They must be stopped” and “Because they hate.” (no bias there, nosirree). The above cited chyron was used. Naturally Gabriel felt that returning the girl meant sudden death not only at the hands of her parents but also from the Muslim community in Ohio because Sharia law mandates that those who leave Islam must be killed. She babbled on about recent Islamic "honor killings" in the United States (actually very rare). The chyron read “Fighting for her life, parents contradict Rivka’s Bary’s claim.” Carlson exhorted the audience to contact the Florida governor. Carlson said “always great to talk to you" while Johnson said “frightening story.” Carlson, who is neither an attorney nor a child welfare worker, said that while the parents wouldn’t do anything “with the world watching, you can’t take that risk.”

Comment: So here we have “both sides” covered. However, the weight of the coverage appears to be on the pro Christian/anti Islam side. As Jarrett’s piece was a short bit on a weekend afternoon show and Skinner’s piece was a news item from a later morning show, the audience for either of these segments was probably lower than that of Fox&Friends which gets very high numbers, so what better vehicle to use for the intended propaganda – Islam/Sharia law bad, girl will be murdered. The Skinner piece was shorter than the Fox &Friends segments. Gaffney and Gabriel clearly have an agenda; but none of their points were contested. It was clear that Johnson and Carlson were in full agreement and were not willing to rebut anything said by their guests despite the contravening evidence being available. Brigitte Gabriel and Frank Gaffney are hardly experts on Islam. But what was really rich was their encouraging their viewers to contact the governor who has now received lots of e-mails – much of it anti-Muslim. As if a child welfare case should be decided on what a right wing “opinion show” audience thinks. Government by Fox&Friends consensus – now that’s democracy in action!!!