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Fox & Friends “Fair and Balanced” Rifqa Bary Discussion?

Reported by Priscilla - January 4, 2010 -

Fox & Friends, as Fox’s Christian morning show, is quite interested in the fate of Christian convert Rifqa Bary. It’s not surprising, given that this case is a cause celebre in the conservative Christian community which, one assumes, is a key demographic of Fox News. It has all the elements so near and dear to the American right wing, most notably the opportunity to use this simple child custody case as an opportunity to bash Islam by spreading the fear of creeping Sharia (there’s actually a website with that name where Bary gets lots of coverage) and terrorist ties to American Islamic mosques while promoting the idea of persecuted Christians – memes that are near and dear to Fox & Friends. This morning, on Fox & Friends, good Christian Gretchen Carlson, last seen interviewing a “pastor” friend of Bary’s, provided us with a “fair and balanced” debate. Once again, the chyrons told a very different story.

As pretty in pink Gretchen introduced the scenario, the “Cavuto marked” chyron read “Religious Runaway, Does the Teenager Have A Case?” (The message here is yes she does) One of Rifqa’s attorneys, John Stemberger, spoke first. Once again, Carlson didn’t mention his connection to an ultra right wing Christian “family” group in Florida. Rather, he was described as “a personal advisor to Rifqa Bary.” Stemberger jumped right into the anti Muslim mode when he alleged that Rifqa hid her Christianity; but it was “discovered” by local mosque leaders who just happened to see her postings on the internet and then pressured her family to “threaten” her. As he talked about the upcoming “dependency” hearing, the chyron read “The Curious Case of Rifqa Bary, Religion Still Keeping Her From Parents.” Rifqa’s father’s former (represented him in Florida case) attorney Shayan Elahi then spoke. As he spoke, the chyrons read “Fighting For Her Life? Christian Convert Hopes For New Outcome” and “Religious Runaway, Christian Girl Feels Threatened By Dad.” Elahi refuted Stemberger’s contention that the Florida attorneys were paid by the Islamic group, CAIR. He spoke of how the Ohio case has become politicized and how the Ohio attorneys are continuing the bigotry…” While he spoke, the chyron read “Teen Fears Honor Killing, Will There Be Peace For Rifqa Bary.” Carlson then read part of an affidavit from Brian Smith, a former church official with the Florida group who sheltered Bary. In the statement, Smith said that Rifqa did not say that her father would kill her. Carlson asked Stemberger to respond to “this one source.” Stemberger proceeded to smear the Bary’s by claiming that there are on line photos of them meeting with CAIR representatives in August. He then said that two mosques sponsored fund raisers to help the family with attorney’s fees. He read an AP statement which said that the Lorenz’s have no charges filed against them. He asserted that Lorenz was a “Methodist pastor who is very well respected in the Orlando community. They did what anyone of us would do, take in a girl to defend her and protect her because she said her life was being threatened by the local Islamic community in the Columbus area.” As Elahi responded to Stemberger, the chyron read “I Will Kill You, Did Rifqa Exaggerate Father’s Comments?” Elahi said that the courts and the child welfare agencies did not find any evidence to back up Rifqa’s accusations and accused Stemberger of lying and attacking Rifqa’s parents. Carlson said that “there are obviously two sides to the story.”

Comment: The two sides to the story, while being represented in the actual video, were noticeably absent in the chyrons which told just one side of it. Unfortunately, because of time constraints, only part of Smith’s affidavit was read as there was further information which doesn’t make the “well respected” pastor look good especially Smith’s allegation that Lorenz knew he was breaking the law. Stemberger’s contention that Bary “hid” her Christianity is refuted by reality such as the fact that she admitted to having participated in radical right wing Christian activist Lou Engle’s prayer rally/conference call in which Engle exhorted his followers to pray that God use Rifqa as “an Esther” to “lead Muslims out of Islam.” Rifaq’s case is being followed by anti-Islamic Pam Geller, of Atlas Shrugs, who helped to organize the rally for Rifqa at which participants wore shirts saying that “Islam is of the Devil.” Geller has compared Bary to Ann Frank. So for Stemberger to claim that Bary’s parents are being helped by legitimate Islamic organization while ignoring the members of the radical right, who are using Bary for their own agenda, is disingenuous. Stemberger’s contention that Rifqa “hid” her Christianity is dubious considering that her classmates knew about it. She even proselytized in the school. But for him to say that taking in a runaway is something “everybody would do” – I don’t think so. Interesting presentation. Under the guise of “fair and balanced,” anti Islamic John Stemberger, got to smear Bary’s parents, CAIR, and Islam – once again. Nice work, Fox & Friends.