Oct
08
2008

Report: Right-wing Pundits Use Mainstream Media to Smear Muslims

Report profiles 12 top Islamophobes in U.S. media, examines the rise of "smearcasting" phenomenon - how Islamophobes use the mainstream media to spread fear, bigotry and misinformation

New York - Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), the national media watchdog group, released a first-of-its-kind report today profiling 12 of the leading Islamophobic pundits and media figures and examining the ways they’ve negatively influenced media coverage in the U.S. The report, “Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation,” describes a loose network of right-wing, anti-Muslim partisans who regularly use innuendo, questionable sources of information and even lies to smear, and effectively marginalize, Muslims in the media.

The report is available for download at: www.smearcasting.com.

“This report takes a fresh look at Islamophobia and its perpetrators in today’s media,” said Steve Rendall, one of the report’s authors and a senior analyst at FAIR. “We found prominent right-wing pundits and activists using misinformation and innuendo to broadcast hate against an entire community - in this case, Muslim-Americans - and major media have either fallen asleep at the wheel or, in many cases, have actively helped to spread the smears.”

"Media should seek various points of view, but the message of the Islamophobes cannot possibly comport with the standards and practices that should constrain media outlets from airing smears against ethnic and religious groups," said Rendall, "We're talking about double standards."

The report's "dirty dozen" list includes talkshow hosts like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck; activists like Michelle Malkin, Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz; and influential writers like Mark Steyn and Robert Spencer.

The report also features four case studies, or snapshots, of how smearcasting has impacted the news cycle, including:

Right-wing pundit Daniel Pipes led a successful campaign to oust the principal of a secular Arabic-language New York City public school school by initiating a media-driven pressure campaign. The principal’s history of forging interfaith and interethnic alliances was ignored as the campaign branded her a “stealth Islamist,” and media pressure eventually forced her to resign.

Conservative columnist and Internet activist Michelle Malkin pressured Dunkin’ Donuts into dropping an ad featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray wearing a black-and-white scarf--which Malkin falsely identified as a keffiyeh, calling it a symbol of “murderous Palestinian jihad.”

Islamophobia has emerged in the 2008 presidential election, from nefarious whisper campaigns directed at Sen. Barack Obama to the recent distribution of the anti-Muslim propaganda DVD Obsession to 28 million newspaper subscribers in swing states.

“We’re not talking about people raving on a street corner downtown,” said Rendall. “These are people who either have a powerful platform at their disposal or are allowed unfettered access to powerful platforms by reporters and editors in what are considered mainstream publications”

“These Muslim-bashing attacks have a real impact, not only on Muslims in America but on our civil discourse,” Rendall added. “We’re in the middle of a historic election in which Islamophobia has already played a role and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the dirty tricks and the smearcasting. Media need to step up and do their job of separating fact from innuendo and can tell the impartial experts apart from the smearcasters.”

To download a copy of the report visit: www.smearcasting.com

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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled.