In October, 2010, Bill O’Reilly assured Deepak Chopra that if Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, came on The O'Reilly Factor, dedicated the project to peace and condemned the 9/11 attacks, O’Reilly would stop badmouthing the project and “come down there with a saw and a hammer and help ‘em” Last night, Rauf tried to get O’Reilly to make good on that promise only to find that O’Reilly added a new condition: that the project had to be a few blocks away – which it always has been. O’Reilly also had a rather different recollection of his commentary about the project than the commentary we actually documented.
It turns out Imam Rauf has a new book out and, presumably, that was the main reason he visited The Factor. But Rauf – who is no longer associated with the project (which is really a community center) – told O’Reilly that his “vision” was a multi-faith center “where people of all religions, Bill, can come together and build understanding, and respect and peace.”
“I like that idea,” O’Reilly said. Then he proceeded to rewrite history. Wondering if Rauf had seen him as bigoted, O’Reilly described his position on the “Ground Zero Mosque” by saying, “This is what I said: You know what, Imam? I’m for this project and I think you’re trying to do a good thing. But I want it maybe a block or two away. I don’t think it’s appropriate at the site.”
As for O’Reilly claiming now that he thought all along Rauf was “trying to do a good thing,” well, I’m sorry, Bill, but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, O’Reilly did his best to smear Rauf as some kind of anti-American extremist.
For example, on September 13, 2010, O’Reilly told his viewers he had uncovered “evidence that the ground zero imam is associated with a radical Muslim.” Therefore, O’Reilly said, fears “may now be valid” the ground zero mosque has “radical ties.”
O’Reilly’s “evidence?” Some friend of Rauf’s had previously been a 9/11 truther.
As I wrote in my post about that segment – which includes video of O’Reilly saying these very words – O’Reilly went on to say,
“There is no question, no question that the truther Khan has a relationship with Rauf. And that was not made public by Rauf, a major mistake for a man under so much scrutiny. So what’s going on here?” O’Reilly called it “simply unacceptable” that both Rauf and Khan declined to comment to Fox about this. That, O’Reilly pronounced, “should be enough to table the entire project until clarification is forthcoming.”
On another night, O’Reilly transitioned away from talking about Rauf to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by saying, “In other radical Muslim news…”
You probably get the picture.
Surely, Imam Rauf knew O’Reilly was spinning the past but he kindly kept quiet about it. However, he did press O’Reilly about his promise: The reason why I’m here, Bill, is because you said that if I came on your show, and condemned terrorism, you would raise a hammer and be among the first to help us build the center. Rauf later quipped that he had been unable to bring his hammer in, but he gave O’Reilly a picture of a hammer.
O’Reilly replied that he had his own hammer and that he would help the center get built “as long as it’s two blocks away.” Which it always has been. “You gotta understand where I’m coming from,” O’Reilly said. After noting that he’d be against building a Benihana Restaurant at Pearl Harbor (as if there were any comparison between the two), O’Reilly now claimed that he was speaking not for himself but for his Long Island neighbors who lost relatives at Ground Zero. “They said to me, ‘Will you tell Imam Raul (sic) that we don’t object to the mosque as long as it’s just not in that proximity… We don’t want any controversy there.’" On his own, O'Reilly added, "I like the community center vision, just move it a couple blocks away.”
Rauf went on to say that he envisioned a “faith-based community center where we all come together to build a coalition of Muslims, of Christians, of Jews, of atheists, who believe in marginalizing the extremists because we have to fight against extremists in all of our faiths.”
“Listen, I think you’re on the right track here,” O’Reilly said approvingly.
“I look forward to your hammer,” Rauf said, as the interview ended.
So do I.