This Saturday at 9 PM EST, Fox News will be airing Islam vs. Islamists, a documentary following “moderate Muslims who have challenged the ‘Islamists’ who espouse a more radical view of their religion“:
The producers, Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney, and Alex Alexiev received “$675,000 in public funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting” for the project, which was originally slated to appear on PBS.
But in April, PBS decided against airing the film as part of its America at a Crossroads series. Burke leveled accusations of political bias, claiming that the network decided to pull the program “after he refused to fire” Gaffney and Alexiev, both of whom head the right-wing Center for Security Policy.
PBS’s actual complaints dealt with the film’s inaccuracies. The spokeswoman for WETA, a PBC affiliate, said, “It was about filmmaking and documentary standards. We had no problem with the argument laid out in the film.” PBS ombudsman Michael Getler explains:
In summarizing the various collective critiques by PBS and WETA officials, plus those of “Crossroads” host Robert MacNeil, these officials said of their suggestions: “In every instance they were predicated on the stated judgment that the content of the piece was potentially very strong, but that its presentation was flawed by incomplete storytelling, a limited focus that does not adequately corroborate the film’s conclusions, and a general lack of attention to the obligation of fairness, which requires that viewers have access to additional context and relevant information about a complex subject.”
Jeff Bieber, WETA’s executive producer for Crossroads, said that the film had “serious structural problems (and)…was irresponsible because the writing was alarmist, and it wasn’t fair.” PBS gave the producers the chance to make changes to the film, but they refused. Fox News, however, has taken them up on the opportunity to air these inaccuracies.
Gaffney’s prejudice against Muslims is well-know even in conservative circles. Right-wing activist Grover Norquist once called Gaffney a “sick, little bigot” for baselessly charging that various Muslim Bush administration officials have ties to terrorists.
Fox will air Islam vs. Islamists as part of a larger special, Inside Islam: Faith vs. Fanatics, which will also include interviews with Burke and Gaffney.