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The Sorry Record of a Muslim-Basher

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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Reprinted from Consortium News


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Supposed "terrorism expert" Steven Emerson has admitted to making a slur against British Muslims, claiming on Fox News that Birmingham, England, is now a "Muslim-only city" and that in parts of London "Muslim religious police ... beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn't dress according to religious Muslim attire."

Emerson was asserting that Muslim areas have become "no-go zones" for non-Muslims and cited as an example "actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." Yet, Birmingham, Great Britain's second-largest city of more than one million people, is nearly half Christian, with the Muslim population less than one-quarter and with significant numbers of Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and non-religious.

As Emerson's Muslim-bashing remarks drew criticism from the media watchdog group FAIR and ridicule across the United Kingdom, he acknowledged that his "comments about Birmingham were totally in error" and vowed not to blame someone else for his slander.

"I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful," Emerson said in an apparent attempt to do exactly that, shift the blame to some unnamed source for supposedly misleading him.

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That ploy -- of palming off his falsehoods on others -- is typical of Emerson when he gets caught in a deception. In the early 1990s, when Emerson was riding high as "an award-winning journalist" and took aim at me by falsely claiming that I had lied in a PBS documentary, he responded to my protest to his editors by threatening a lawsuit against me.

Only after I was able to prove that it was Emerson who was lying did he grudgingly back down and blamed one of his researchers for the falsehood. The context of that fabrication was Emerson's attempt to debunk allegations that Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign had colluded with Iranian officials to sabotage President Jimmy Carter's negotiations to free 52 American hostages then being held in Iran, a crisis that effectively sank Carter's reelection.

For a PBS "Frontline" documentary on the controversy, I had noted that the Secret Service had released only redacted copies of its records regarding the whereabouts of then vice presidential candidate George H.W. Bush on days when he was alleged to have traveled secretly to Paris. Writing for The New Republic, Emerson claimed that he had received copies of the Secret Service records under a Freedom of Information Act request without any redactions, suggesting that I had lied.

After talking to the Secret Service and being told that Emerson's records had redactions like everyone else's -- even Congress and federal prosecutors received redacted versions -- I challenged Emerson's account in letters to his editors, including one to CNN where he had been hired as an investigative reporter.

Emerson was subsequently dumped by CNN and I was promptly threatened by one of his law firms with a libel suit for having criticized him in letters to his editors. Apparently, I was supposed to apologize for saying that Emerson was lying when he claimed to have Bush's unredacted Secret Service records.

Faced with this legal threat, I had to dig into my children's college fund and hire a lawyer, who frankly seemed to doubt that the well-regarded Emerson could be in the wrong. My response was that if Emerson actually had the unredacted records, he could simply present them, but his lawyer said that would only be done in the midst of a costly trial.

As the abusive and threatening letters from Emerson's lawyers mounted, I decided to submit a FOIA to the Secret Service for Emerson's FOIA, i.e., I demanded exactly the same documents that the Secret Service had released to him. When those records arrived, they showed that Emerson indeed had been lying. His copies of the Secret Service records were redacted, just like those released to me and other investigators.

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Finally, the threatened lawsuit went away, and Emerson was forced to admit in an interview with the media watchdog group FAIR that he never had the records he claimed. He blamed a research assistant, but never apologized for the bullying legal strategy designed to financially bleed a journalist (myself) into confirming a lie as the truth. [For more details, see a report in FAIR's "Extra!," November-December 1993.]

Since then, Emerson has amassed a checkered record as a "terrorism expert," routinely blaming the wrong ethnic groups for various terrorism incidents. [For a brief recounting, see FAIR's "For Fox News' Steve Emerson, Fact-checking Seems to Be a No-Go Zone."]

Muslim-Bashing Career

Most significantly, Emerson has made a lucrative career out of decrying Muslims. In a 2011 report, entitled "Fear, Inc.," by the Center for American Progress, he was identified as one of five "scholars" who act as "misinformation experts" to "generate the false facts and materials" that are then exploited by politicians and pundits to frighten Americans about the supposed threat posed by Muslims.

The report offered a rare glimpse into the right-wing propaganda network that has exploited America's post-9/11 hysteria and transformed those fears into a powerful political movement to get millions of Christians and Jews to support legislation and policies that target Muslims and their communities.

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http://www.consortiumnews.com

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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