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Fox News And Chris Wallace Aid And Abet Sen. Lieberman’s Islamophobia In Fort Hood Massacre

Reported by Ellen - November 8, 2009 -

In his appearance today on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, seemingly ignored the request of General George Casey, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, to exercise caution and restraint about the “motives or religious beliefs” of alleged Fort Hood killer Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and to avoid an anti-Islamic backlash. Instead, Lieberman engaged in exactly the kind of inflammatory, anti-Islamic speculation that Casey warned against. Furthermore, despite the fact that investigators have tentatively concluded that there was no terror plot behind the Fort Hood killings, and despite the fact that Lieberman admitted he knew of none, he repeatedly suggested otherwise. Lieberman also repeatedly compared Fort Hood to 9/11. Host Chris Wallace failed to challenge Lieberman’s rhetoric and, at one point, implicitly affirmed it. It also seems to have escaped Wallace just how self-serving it was of Lieberman to bolster his importance as Chairman just as he's stabbing the Democrats in the back over health care reform. The Fox News producers joined the pile on by posting graphics that also suggested Hasan was a radical, anti-American Muslim. In concert with Lieberman, Foxnews.com posted a series of headlines on its home page also calling Hasan an "Islamic Extremist." This continues Fox News' pattern of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of the Fort Hood killings. With video.

During his own appearance today on CNN’s State of the Union, Casey said, “We can't jump to conclusions now based on little snippets of information that come out. And frankly, I am worried -- not worried, but I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. And I've asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that. It would be a shame -- as great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well." But Lieberman seemed to be deliberately courting such a backlash.

Wallace asked Lieberman, “In your briefing… have you learned any more about Major Hasan’s motives, his actions and whether or not he had any links to Islamic radicals overseas?” Wallace never mentioned that, as the New York Times reported, investigators "have come to believe that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused in the shootings, acted out under a welter of (my emphasis) emotional, ideological and religious pressures, according to interviews with federal officials who have been briefed on the inquiry." Presumably, Lieberman's position on the Homeland Security Committee would put him in a position to have received the same briefing(s).

Lieberman said, “It’s too early. It’s premature to reach conclusions about what motivated Hasan.” But then Lieberman demonstrated he had already reached such conclusions. “It’s clear he (Hasan) was 1) under personal stress and 2) if the reports that we’re receiving of various statements he made, of acts he took, are valid, he had turned to Islamist extremism. And therefore, if that is true, the murder of these 13 people, was a terrorist act.”

Well, not necessarily, say experts in the field. Foxnews.com reported that Carl Tobias, a professor of law at University of Richmond who analyzes terrorist investigations across the country, said, "Terrorist attacks are undertaken by people who typically ... have some agenda they want to forward politically, and from what I see in the news, this is just a person acting individually because he doesn't want to deploy overseas… So I just don't see that angle." Furthermore, while the Times stressed that investigators have not yet ruled out the possibility that Hassan “believed he was carrying out an extremist’s suicide mission,” they also reported, “investigators have unearthed no evidence that he was directed or steered into violence or ever traveled overseas to meet with extremist groups.”

If, as Lieberman suggested, extremist statements that go along with acts of violence are proof of terrorism, then you’d have to call the recent murders allegedly committed by anti-Semitic James Von Brunn (charged with shooting and killing a Holocaust Museum guard last June) and anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder (charged with assassinating Dr. George Tiller) terrorism, too. But I could find no statements from Lieberman indicating he thought that those June and late May (respectively), 2009 killings may have been acts of terrorism.

Nevertheless, without indicating he had any evidence investigators did not, Lieberman was willing to light a potentially destructive flame of anti-Muslim bigotry as he baselessly linked Fort Hood to September 11th. Echoing the words of Fox News’ extremist military analyst, Ralph Peters, Friday night (11/6/09), Lieberman called the Fort Hood killings, “the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11.”

Then, after being so deliberately inflammatory, Lieberman tried to hedge. “I want to say very quickly, we don’t know enough to say now, but there are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and therefore, that this was a terrorist act.”

Of course, Lieberman could be right that this was a terrorist act. And as Chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, he’s indisputably right to consider those possibilities. But it strikes me as more than a little irresponsible to go on national television making such accusations before an investigation has been concluded or that the one he later stated he'd commence had even begun.

Also, why did Lieberman not mention concern about other kinds of racist extremism in the military? In late November, 2008, The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about its concerns about racial and ethnic extremism in the military. The Department of Homeland Security (you know, the department Lieberman oversees) has also warned of the resurgence of right-wing “radicalization and recruitment.” Given that Maj. Hasan had been known to complain of anti-Muslim discrimination against him, Lieberman should have at least brought this up as a possibly related issue that should be investigated.

And if Lieberman didn’t mention it, certainly “fair and balanced” Chris Wallace should have. Instead, Wallace coyly acted to underscore the “radical Islamic” meme by asking, “Any evidence so far that what you or your staff have heard in briefings that (Hasan) – because we know he was on some radical Islamic websites – that he was exchanging communications either in this country or overseas with other Islamic radicals?” It was a nice way for Wallace to make sure his viewers got it that Hasan was engaged with “radical Islamic websites” without actually having to mention that there’s no hard evidence that Hasan really engaged in any terrorist activity.

Lieberman admitted, “Nothing I can confirm at this point.” He added that he thought it “very important to let the Army and the FBI go forward with this investigation before we reach any conclusions.” Lieberman must have meant before we reach any conclusions other than that Hasan was an Islamic terrorist. Because in his next breath, Lieberman added, “We do know on the record from third parties reporting over the last two or three years that (Hasan) made a series of statements justifying suicide bombing… He shouted out, according to bystanders – while killing the other day at Fort Hood – the words “Allahu Akbar,” an expression of faith in Islam, which the Islamic extremists have corrupted and the fact that he did that at the moment of these murders, if that’s confirmed, of course raises genuine concerns that this was a genuine terrorist attack.” First of all, the phrase, akin to “Hallelujah” has lots of uses and contexts beyond terrorism (including the Muslim call to prayer) and even if Hasan said it while in the act of murder, that is not necessarily evidence of Islamic terrorism.

But once again, Wallace had did not question Lieberman's anti-Islamic assumptions.

So Lieberman went even further, this time raising fears of other Muslim attacks on military bases and baselessly linking them to Hasan. “This is not the first attempt by Islamic extremists to strike at American military bases. We’ve broken up plots to go after Fort Dix, Quantico Marine Base in Virginia… "

Wallace went through the motions of challenging Lieberman at that point. Wallace asked, “I know hindsight is 20/20 but were there enough signs, enough red flags that authorities should have stepped in?” But as if in answer to the question, Fox News producers at that very moment, posted a series of statements about Hasan on the screen that were obviously to be construed as “red flags:” “Internet postings praising suicide bombers; war on terror is ‘War on Muslims;’ Fighting Afghanistan Deployment.”

“That’s a very good question,” Lieberman said. He added that both the Army and the Department of Defense have an obligation to also investigate whether warning signs had been missed, not just about the stress Hasan was under “but also the statements that he was making which really could lead people to believe that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist.” Lieberman went on to add that the “new face” of terrorism would be “home-grown” terrorists “going to jihadist websites”