Accuracy in Media

In the days of vaudeville, comedians oftentimes started monologues with the line, “A funny thing happened on the way to the theater.” But, unfortunately, at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), which President Trump opted not to attend, a not-too-funny thing happened. Something went totally unnoticed by those attending, who certainly were responsible for noticing such things and reporting them. It was yet another indicator of a media so caught up in an anti-Trump “slash-and-burn” mindset, it turned a blind eye to a threat snuffing out journalism’s lifeblood in many parts of the world.

It was the first time in 36 years the sitting president had not attended the WHCD. The last time was Ronald Reagan and only because he was recovering from an assassin’s bullet. But there was reasonable cause for Trump not to attend, as he remains at war with the media – a team comprised mostly of members insistent upon playing party politics on the left side of the field.

It is clear from the Democratic National Committee’s recent effort to promote Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison as its party leader, it is clear from the liberal Women’s March movement having Muslim activist Linda Sarsour as a co-founder, and it is clear from the media’s invitation to Muslim comic Hasan Minhaj to perform at this year’s WHCD that these reporters and Democrats share a similar mindset – that there is nothing to fear from Islam but fear itself, a fear misnamed “Islamophobia.”

Based on his previous anti-Trump comments, such as calling him the “white ISIS,” Minhaj was invited to headline the event. He was seen as the matador capable of waving a red cape in front of a press already bullishly antagonistic toward Trump.

Even in accepting, Minhaj wasted no time in criticizing Trump, saying, “It is a tremendous honor to be a part of such a historic event even though the president has chosen not to attend this year. SAD! Now more than ever, it is vital that we honor the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”

At an event that was supposedly to be both fun as well as unbiased, during the dinner Minhaj repeatedly threw anti-Trumpism red meat to his audience.

While the president may have been fair game, Minhaj also recognized a line existed over which his love of “the First Amendment and the freedom of the press” would not allow him to cross. Ironically, this was not a line about targeting Trump but about a cloud lingering over Minhaj’s audience in its own exercise of the above rights he flagged as being so important.

Interestingly, when it comes to journalistic freedom, the 2017 World Press Freedom Index reveals nations in which Islam dominates have much less of it. Most Muslim nations, in fact, fall into the bottom quarter of that Index.

While mocking Trump, left uncriticized was a religion Minhaj follows that minimizes journalistic freedom, sanctions abuse of women, demands the death penalty for gays, calls for intolerance of non-Muslims and prohibits mocking Islam. It was apparent the media saw no hypocrisy in Minhaj’s relentless attacks against a person responsible for protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press rights while remaining silent about his own adherence to an ideology seeking destruction of such rights.

Perhaps on his “way to the theater” to attend the WHCD event Minhaj should have reflected upon the not-so-funny plight of a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi. The mother of five dared suggest all human life is equal, which in a Muslim country can give rise to a blasphemy charge for insulting Islam. Her equivalency assertion was seen as a snub of Isalm by rejecting its avowed superiority to all other religions. And this occurred in “moderate” Pakistan, a supposed U.S. ally in the war against Islamic extremism.

Bibi’s case is but one example of why the term “Islamophobia” is a misnomer. “Phobia” means an irrational fear – thus Islamophobia means an irrational fear of Islam. But Bibi’s blasphemy conviction in a moderate Muslim country, simply for equating Muslim and non-Muslim lives, demonstrates that non-Muslims do have a rational justification to fear Islam.

Lost in the robust laughter at the WHCD was the media’s failure to address how even moderate Islam intimidates those truly concerned about its chilling impact upon our First Amendment and freedom of the press. Clearly, the failure of many in the media to investigate and explain this impact demonstrates its own phobia of being accused of Islamophobia.

We saw an example of this when Islamic reformist and former Muslim Hirsi Ali was invited to speak at Brandeis University, only to be disinvited as those unwilling to hear about Islam’s dark side protested. The issue received minimal media attention.

More recently, we saw it when prominent feminist scholar Phyllis Chesler sought to participate in a University of Arkansas symposium to share her extensive knowledge about honor killings and forced marriages. She also was disinvited as school faculty became concerned significant Saudi funding for their Middle East Studies Program would be terminated. Again, the media paid the matter little attention.

The focus of Chesler’s talk was on the abuses suffered by Muslim women living in the West. Sadly, even educators turn a blind eye to an ideological threat endangering us, giving priority instead to money over truth.

While this goes on, the media naively guffaws at a Muslim comic making fun of our president.

There are two pillars of American society long recognized as being responsible for sounding the alarm when our rights are threatened. One is our educational institutions; the other is our media. Yet, when it comes to Islam, neither seems willing to accept this responsibility.

Accepting Islam’s basic tenets in the U.S. – one of which is its mandated superiority over all other religions, which must submit to it – is a Trojan Horse for the First Amendment and the press freedoms Hasad Minhaj tells us he so reveres. Ironically, by failing to see this, the real joke is on us.

A version of this piece also appeared on    

Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media or its staff.

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