But the historical significance of noting Emerson's role in this "Islamophobia network" is that he was revealed to be a propagandist willing to distort information for ideological ends, not the serious journalist that he successfully posed as during the 1980s and 1990s.
In more recent years, followers of Emerson's work have come to understand that he has very close ties to Israeli right-wingers in the Likud Party -- and that his "journalism" often has reflected their political needs and interests.
However, in the 1990s, Emerson was amassing journalism awards for his work targeting American Muslims as a particularly dangerous lot -- and he was raising large sums of money to support his work from sources, such as right-wing mogul Richard Mellon Scaife. Emerson's documentary, "Jihad in America," was broadcast by PBS.
Only gradually did a few brave reporters begin criticizing Emerson and his cozy ties to right-wing Israeli officials, including Israeli intelligence officers. Typically, Emerson would hit back by issuing legal threats from his vast stable of high-priced lawyers.
Emerson's use of lawyers to bully other journalists, which I had witnessed firsthand, became part of his modus operandi, as Nation reporter Robert I. Friedman discovered in 1995 after criticizing Emerson's "Jihad in America."
"Intellectual terrorism seems to be part of Emerson's standard repertoire," Friedman wrote. "So is his penchant for papering his critics with threatening lawyers' letters."
Friedman also reported that Emerson hosted right-wing Israeli intelligence officials when they were in Washington. "[Yigal] Carmon, who was Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's adviser on terrorism, and [Yoram] Ettinger, who was Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu's man in the Israeli Embassy, stay in Emerson's apartment on their frequent visits to Washington," Friedman wrote.
In 1999, a study of Emerson's history by John F. Sugg for FAIR's magazine "Extra!" quoted an Associated Press reporter who had worked with Emerson on a project as saying of Emerson and Carmon: "I have no doubt these guys are working together."
The Jerusalem Post reported that Emerson has "close ties to Israeli intelligence," and "Victor Ostrovsky, who defected from Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and has written books disclosing its secrets, calls Emerson 'the horn' -- because he trumpets Mossad claims," Sugg reported.
Over time, Emerson grew notorious for his Islamophobia and his "investigative journalism" that hammered away at purported dangers from "radicalized" American Muslims. In 2010, Emerson went on a national radio program and claimed that Islamic cleric Feisal Abdul Rauf, an American citizen of New York, would likely not "survive" Emerson's disclosure of supposedly radical comments that Rauf made a half decade earlier.
Although acknowledging that his "investigation" was incomplete, Emerson offered the listeners to Bill Bennett's right-wing radio show "a little preview" of the allegedly offensive comments by Rauf, the cleric behind a planned community center in Lower Manhattan near the site of 9/11's "ground zero."
"We have found audiotapes of Imam Rauf defending Wahhabism, the puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia; we have found him calling for the elimination of the state of Israel by claiming he wants a one-nation state meaning no more Jewish state; we found him defending [Osama] bin Laden violence."
However, when Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) released its evidence several days later, it fell far short of Emerson's lurid descriptions. Rauf actually made points that are shared by many mainstream analysts -- and none of the excerpted comments involved "defending Wahhabism."
As for Rauf "defending bin Laden violence," Emerson apparently was referring to remarks that Rauf made to an audience in Australia in 2005 about the history of U.S. and Western mistreatment of people in the Middle East. "We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims," Rauf said.
"You may remember that the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, [she] said it was worth it."