The right’s hateful freak show: Dana Milbank vs. Heritage Foundation’s abuse

Wingers and pundits claim the Islamophobia at a big right-wing event wasn't so bad, after all. Watch for yourself

Topics: Heritage Foundation, Washington Post, The Right, Islamophobia, Muslims, saba ahmed, Editor's Picks, Dana Milbank, Brigitte Gabriel, Erick Erickson, ,

The right's hateful freak show: Dana Milbank vs. Heritage Foundation's abuseErick Erickson, Dana Milbank (Credit: Wikimedia/MSNBC)

Thanks to Dana Milbank for attending the Heritage Foundation hatefest on Benghazi Monday so the rest of us didn’t have to. As if a higher power wanted to underscore the group’s irrelevance, the very next morning the Obama administration announced it captured the man it believes was the ringleader of the Benghazi attack.

Milbank’s column focused on the abuse suffered by Saba Ahmed, a Pakistani Muslim, when she suggested that some at the conference seemed to stereotype all Muslims as violent and anti-American. Rather unbelievably, conservatives and even some media critics are siding with Heritage and saying Milbank made the crowd look uglier than it was. Even after Media Matters released video of the clash between Ahmed and panelist Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! For America, criticism intensified.

You can read Milbank’s story and watch the video yourself. I think Byers and the other critics are wrong. In fact, the firestorm over Milbank’s column shows how hard even nominally mainstream reporters will work to excuse increasingly unhinged rhetoric on the right.

The conflict began when Ahmed, wearing a headscarf, took the microphone and quietly observed, “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam. We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”

Now it’s true that Islamophobe Frank Gaffney played the moderate in the clash with Ahmed, thanking her for her question and reassuring her that no one on the panel “thinks that all Muslims are the problem.” Clearly Gaffney didn’t want anything to upstage his renewed charge that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin has “deep personal ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood.



But Brigitte Gabriel, known for calling Muslims “barbarians,” tore into Ahmed, shrieking at her: “We are not here to bash Muslims, you were the one who brought up the issue about ‘most Muslims,’ not us.” Then she whipped the crowd into a standing ovation, asking Ahmed, “Where are the other Muslims speaking out?” She went on: “You took the limelight instead of … standing up and saying a question, asking something about our four Americans who died and what our government is doing to correct the problem, you stood there to make a point about peaceful American Muslims.”

It was bullying plain and simple, and it was ugly. It’s true that Gaffney and moderator Chris Plante treated Ahmed more gently than Gabriel did, but Gabriel deliberately channeled anti-Muslim prejudice to get the crowd to applaud her hectoring of Ahmed.

Ahmed herself (assuming it’s the same one) is a curious case. Once a Democrat, she became a Republican after losing a quixotic race for Congress in Portland, Oregon, in 2011. She wrote on her Facebook page at the time:

(M)y conservative Islamic values (pro-life, pro-family values, pro-business) made it very hard for me to defend myself as a Democrat. George Bush advocated water boarding torture just like Obama advocated drone missiles. Both parties treat Muslims badly, which is why American economy is going bankrupt fighting Islam. Inshallah, I look forward to helping foster a better understanding of our faith…

Ahmed can be found around Facebook praising the various antiwar, anti-drone initiatives of Sen. Rand Paul. She is also a family friend of Mohammed Osman Mohumed, convicted of a bomb plot in Portland, Oregon, and she publicly defended him. That’s enough for Erick Erickson to claim that she deserved her treatment by Gabriel, even though he presents no evidence that Gabriel knew anything about Ahmed.

Not surprisingly, Ahmed’s local Republican Party didn’t have much use for her. As she wrote on Facebook:

And yes I was banned from the Oregon Tea Party and Washington County Republicans earlier this year because of my Islamic beliefs, but I have to believe there is room for learning. I have to try and make a place for myself even if i’m unwelcomed. I know several tea party republicans hate me because they somehow blame me for 9/11. But I know once we talk to each other, get to know one another, we can all heal together. Inshallah!

Apparently, her GOP outreach campaign still isn’t working. Righties on Twitter are suggesting that questions about her identity mean that Milbank’s reporting on Heritage is off base, but once Media Matters released video of Gabriel savaging Ahmed to the crowd’s cheers, the controversy should have been over. Instead, because Milbank didn’t note that Gaffney said all Muslims were not the problem, some people are trying to let Heritage off the hook. Erick Erickson also says Heritage merely provided a room to the Benghazi Accountability Coalition; in fact, it was a co-host.

The cruelty to Ahmed was awful, of course, but equally bad were the anti-Obama conspiracy theories on display.  The circus was convened by ringmaster Andrew McCarthy, who is hyping his book “Faithless Execution: The Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment” (not surprisingly, the president’s handling of Benghazi is one of the pillars).  No ugly rumor about Benghazi was off-limits, from doubts about how Ambassador Chris Stevens died, charges he was involved in an arms swap between Syria and Libya, allegations that the president watched the men die via drone footage. Panelist and former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova charged that the president just went to bed and did nothing after learning of the attack on the Benghazi compound.

Still, the clash between Gabriel and Ahmed, who endured the invective peacefully, made headlines because it showed the Islamophobia and xenophobia on the far right. Elias Isquith called the entire day a “bigoted freak show,” and it showed how Heritage has slipped to the fringe of the right-wing fringe under Jim DeMint.

“As a peaceful American Muslim I would like to think I’m not that irrelevant,” Ahmed told the crowd.  She might like to think that, but on the far right these days, she would be wrong.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...