Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz told Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday that his Islamophobic comments directed at recently rescued American POW Bowe Bergdahl’s father “went too far.”
Right-wing media figures like O’Reilly and many of his Fox News colleagues didn’t like that Bob Bergdahl had a full-length beard, said a common Muslim religious phrase in Arabic, and spoke Pashto — one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan — at Obama’s announcement. (Time had reported that Bob Bergdahl grew his beard and learned Pashto and Arabic “out of a desire to better understand the world from which his son could not escape.”)
“[I]t is Robert Bergdahl, the father, who is also engendering some controversy. He has learned to speak Pashto, the language of the Taliban, and looks like a Muslim,” O’Reilly said on Monday. “He is also somewhat sympathetic to Islam, actually thanking Allah right in front of the president.”
O’Reilly stood by his comments on his Fox News program on Wednesday. “I said that Robert Bergdahl looked like a Muslim when he appeared at the White House with President Obama,” he noted. “A, he absolutely looked like a Muslim; B, he talked in Pashto the language of the Taliban; and C, he thanked Allah. I thought the appearance was totally inappropriate. I said it. I will stand by it.”
But Kurtz told O’Reilly he “went too far.”
“I’m not a fan of how Bob Bergdahl has conducted himself but cut the guy some slack,” Kurtz said. “His son was missing for five years. He has been through hell. Suddenly this guy from a small town Idaho is thrust into the national spotlight. He is not the issue.”
But Kurtz didn’t mention the obvious critique of O’Reilly’s comments: What’s wrong with looking like a Muslim?
“[I]‘s disheartening to see that some prominent conservatives are unable to critique the Bergdahl deal without resorting to anti-Muslim bigotry,” wrote Peter Beinart at the Atlantic, referring to O’Reilly’s comments. “Actually, Bob Bergdahl’s untrimmed beard would fit in well in Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jewish circles as well.
“In conservative circles today, in fact, high-profile expressions of anti-Muslim bigotry are as routine as anti-black or anti-Jewish slurs were a half-century ago,” Beinart lamented.
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on Tuesday lashed out at the right’s bigotry. “First of all, who the f*** are you to judge what a guy does if he thinks it might help him get his son back?” Stewart asked.
Referring to the stars of the television show “Duck Dynasty,” Stewart added, “And I don’t want to complicate your hatred of facial hair there, friend, but my guess is if you gave Bob Bergdahl a bandanna and a duck, you’d like him just-f***ing-fine.”
Also on Wednesday, Fox’s Sean Hannity promoted former GOP congressman Allen West’s conspiratorial claim that Bergdahl’s dad had supposedly “claimed” the White House for Islam by saying “in the name of God, most gracious, most compassionate,” in Arabic at President Obama’s announcement on Saturday.
But it appears that the White House may have already been claimed for Islam — back in 1805 during President Jefferson’s Iftar dinner.