The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative recently presented plans to build a community center two blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City that would include “a mosque, performance art center, gym, swimming pool and other public spaces.” Even though a community advisory board voted in favor of the proposal, conservatives have continued to attack the plan, with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) calling it “offensive.”
On Wednesday, a man named “Tony” called into the KTRH-AM (Houston, TX) radio show of right-wing radio host Michael Berry in support of the Muslim center. First, Berry asked the caller whether “Tony” was his real name, because with his accent, he didn’t “sound like a ‘Tony.’” He repeatedly tried to link to the mosque to terrorists, eventually saying that if the mosque is built, he hopes someone blows it up:
BERRY: No, Tony, you can’t build a mosque at the site of 9/11.
TONY: Why not? Why not?
BERRY: No, you can’t. And I’ll tell you this: If you do build a mosque, I hope somebody blows it up. … I hope the mosque isn’t built, and if it is, I hope it’s blown up. And I mean that. … It’s right-wing radicals like me that are going to keep this country safe for you and everyone else from the people who are flying the planes from the country you fled from. If you want to identify with those people, go live with them.
Yesterday, the Muslim civil rights organization CAIR filed a complaint against Berry with the FCC. “Calls for acts of violence against houses of worship must never be tolerated or excused,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We ask the FCC to demonstrate that incitement to violence is never acceptable on our nation’s airwaves.”
On his website, Berry has responded to CAIR’s charge by saying, “I did NOT advocate bombing any mosque” because “the supposed mosque does not exist.” He then accused CAIR of trying to “scare people into believing that having differing opinions will cost you your job.” However, right after all of these accusations — in a markedly different tone (and, interestingly, a different font) — Berry apologizes for his remarks:
While I stand by my disagreement of the building of the mosque on the site, I SHOULD NOT have said “I hope someone blows it up.” That was dumb, and beneath me. I was trying to show “Tony” how much I opposed his opinion, but I went too far. For that, I apologize to my listeners.
Berry’s comments are especially disturbing in light of a recent terrorist incident directed at an Islamic Center in Jacksonville, FL. A man firebombed the mosque when there were about 60 people inside, although no one was injured.
Berry has been a substitute host for Mark Levin and a guest on the shows of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. On March 20, he wrote on his Twitter page, “NYC at talk radio convention. Sean Hannity very supportive of my career, offering to help. Said he listens when I sub for Mark Levin.”