In case you missed it, Fox News’ Lauren Green conducted an interview with religious scholar Reza Aslan last week. Aslan, a Muslim who converted to Christianity and then back again, appeared on Fox to discuss his latest book, Zealot, a historical exploration of Jesus Christ. But Green’s ignorant, bigoted hostility was so shocking and repulsive that the video has gone viral, religious leaders have condemned her and now the Washington Post media critic has called for an apology.
Green spent most of the 10-minute segment (video below) suggesting that Aslan had some kind of evil (Islamic) ulterior motive for writing the book. In fact, that was almost her only talking point. As Think Progress pointed out in their write-up of the discussion, Green opened by trying to discredit Aslan and denigrate his credentials. Here’s their transcript of the opening questions:
GREEN: This is an interesting book. Now I want to clarify, you’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?
ASLAN: Well to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees — including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades — who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a Ph.D in the history of religions…
GREEN: But it still begs the question why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?
ASLAN: Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.
As Think Progress also pointed out, Green followed up those questions by referencing a Fox News column by John Dickerson. His Islamophobic title should have discredited him as any kind of legitimately “fair and balanced” authority: “Liberal media love new Jesus book ‘Zealot’, fail to mention author is Muslim.”
What got ignored by both Dickerson and Green is that, according to his site’s biography, Aslan’s “formal training” comes not from some far-out Islamic theological institution but from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa and is chairman of the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.
I believe that you’ve been on several programs and have never disclosed that you were a Muslim.
Also overlooked by Dickerson and Green is that Aslan converted back to Islam after having converted to Christianity. So he has personal experience with both religions. But Green didn’t mind leaving the impression that Aslan’s religion disqualified him from writing about Jesus who, by the way, is an important figure in Islam nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Green’s suggestions that Aslan’s Muslim faith should have been a barrier to his writing about Jesus seems to only go one way. Media Matters found eight reports filed by her about Muslims and Islam that, by her own standard, Green had no business doing. Or maybe she believes that it’s only Muslims who should be reined in as to which topics they are allowed to cover?
Fortunately for those of us who don’t see things Green’s way, her shameful display backfired. The video of the segment became a bonanza for BuzzFeed, which posted it with the headline, “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” Just as satisfying, Aslan may well get the last laugh as the result of all the newfound attention to his book. The Atlantic Wire noted that while Zealot was already selling well, “Controversy like this usually drives book sales through the roof.”
Meanwhile, the fallout continues for Green and Fox News. Religious leaders have been harshly critical of Fox’s “being a Muslim disqualifies Aslan from writing about Jesus” stance. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple slammed the “dumb, loaded (and) prejudicial” questions in a column titled, “Fox News must apologize to Reza Aslan.”
We doubt anyone is holding their breath for that to happen. But it doesn’t matter that much. This interview turned Fox into a laughingstock, apology or not, on the level of Dick Morris’ ridiculous predictions of a Mitt Romney landslide and Karl Rove refusing to accept an Obama victory on Election Night. And that is just what the network deserves.
Kicking dogs leave no afterburner Kangaroo night clouds.
There, we can talk normally now.