Jon Stewart has been on a roll with the recent "Ground Zero mosque" controversy. And last night, he threw the hammer down on Fox News for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, and in a bit of mind-blowing irony, he used Charlton Heston's NRA speech from May 1, 1999, after the Columbine massacre, to drive home the point about tolerance.
CHARLTON HESTON: Tragedy has been, and will always be, with us. Somewhere right now, evil people are planning evil things. All of us will do everything meaningful, everything we can do to prevent it. But each horrible act can't become an axe for opportunists to cleave the very Bill of Rights that binds us.
Video and transcript below the fold.
You'll recall months ago, a New York community board approved plans to build Park 51. It was a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. A year ago, local Jewish and Christian community leaders endorsed the project. It even got the approval of a national religious sect.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS (12/21/2009): I can't find many people who really have a problem with it, you got... Bloomberg is for it, you got rabbis in New York saying they don't have a problem with it... I like what you're trying to do, and Ms. Kahn, we appreciate it.
Oh, Fox News. That was December. Whether it was the Christmas spirit, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, no one seemed to get too worked up. But the discussion soon became, not about their right to build a place of worship, but about where they were building it.
JEFF GREENE (FL-SEN "DEMOCRATIC" CANDIDATE) (8/16/2010): I'm all in favor of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but I also think that you have to be sensitive to the victims....
BILL O'REILLY (8/9/2010): ... this is about sensitivity ...
NEWT GINGRICH (7/26/2010): I'm quite happy if they'd come in and said we want to build a community center near Central Park.
In Central Park, all over Central Park. We love mosques, we are mosqueteers, if you will, we barbecue on weekends using mosquite. We love it. It's an argument about being sensitive to the....
Really? You enjoy that? I forget these pop up occasionally.
It's an argument about being sensitive to the location's meaning for so many who lost so much there. And it's a fair question for the mosque's opponents to raise. But that argument took a subtle turn, see if you can catch it.
DICK MORRIS (8/19/2010): The issue here is not religious freedom, and it is not people worshiping God through the Islamic religion. That's wonderful. But....
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON FOX NEWS: ... but ...
DON IMUS: ... but ...
REV. FLIP BENHAM (OPERATION SAVE AMERICA) (8/11/2010): Islam is a lie from the pit of hell....
SEAN HANNITY: ... women are stoned to death ...
MONICA CROWLEY: ... the infidel must be converted or killed ...
BILL O'REILLY: ... the imam Rauf, he is no friend to America ...
DAVID WEBB: ... he supports Sharia ...
RUDY GIULIANI: ... refused to condemn Hamas ...
BRIAN KILMEADE: The imam behind the mosque may accept money from Iran, there's Saudi Arabia....
DICK MORRIS: We're establishing, literally, a command center for terrorism right at the 9/11 site!
(in Dick Morris voice) I'm for freedom of religion, I'm just saying this religion is dominated by women-stoning suicide bombers, that's all.
By the way, those clips were just from the past 24 hours. You're welcome.
You know, just for the record, I'm against establishing a terrorist command post at 9/11 and Ground Zero, or really anywhere in the city. Here's the part of the... lemme just explain this, here's the part of the argument I get.
FOX & FRIENDS, 8/19/2010
ERIC BOLLING: I was on my way to the World Trade Center on 9/11, when I watched the second plane fly into the building. I was there. I had a safety deposit box in a Chase bank underneath. ... This is it, this is the actual box, they found it two years later.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: What did you have in there?
BOLLING: I just want to show you. There was some cash in there, but if I can, lemme just show you some of these. It's crazy, these are dollar bills.
STEVE DOOCY: It's just charred.
BOLLING: You see this? ... Those are two coins melted together, I mean, it's just... you wanna know why I have passion for this thing? This is why.
I get it, you feel very strongly about the event in that area. You lost friends, and a certain amount of cash and coins. But, even though many innocent Muslims also died in the towers and the Pentagon, and the Pentagon has a mosque in it with no problems, you feel there should not be a mosque down there. At least symbolically, it doesn't sit well with you. And I can accept that. I can accept that argument, I can respect that argument. Here's where you lose me.
BOLLING: We're following the money trail. Where is this money coming from? Unfortunately, with this guy, imam Rauf, he's not a great... he's not a good guy. He's being portrayed as a, you know, a moderate Muslim. This guy has questionable ties.
I mean, there's questions whether he has ties to Perdana, which was the group that sent that flotilla towards Israel, remember that whole conflict on the water? He may have ties... Perdana and Muslim Brotherhood are a handshake apart. ... And here's one we should all really worry about, where's Iran in this? Perdana, Iran, have been loosely tied to imam Rauf also. ... Do I want a mosque that may be, that may be a meeting place for some of the scariest minds, some of the biggest terrorist minds...
KILMEADE: Yeah, the next Hamburg cell could be right downtown.
Or uptown, or Midtown, definitely not the Village, I mean, the rents there....
But the very fact that the Trade Center bombing could've been hatched from Hamburg, means they don't have to be next to it when they plan. And may have ties to people who might have bad ideas that may end up getting money from relatives of people who might have, for some reason, safety deposit boxes filled with money.... It's a dangerous game of guilt by association you could play with almost anybody. All you need is a card and a highlighter. It's, it's, it's nothing. It's, ah, what is that game called? It's six degrees of people who don't eat bacon! Let me do it for you. OK, here, let's try this.
Here's Rupert Murdoch. He owns Fox News. Now, he definitely has ties to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. Al-Waleed bin Talal owns the second largest share of NewsCorp, outside of the Murdoch family. He owns 7%, $2.5 billion dollars. Now, they say he's a liberal Muslim, but he is in the Saudi royal family, which may have ties to funding the Wahhabist mosques, the same particular brand of Islam practiced by some of the terrorists. And he may have business dealings with the Carlyle Group, whose clients include... bin Laden family, one of whose sons, now obviously I'm not going to say which son, one of whose sons may be anti-American. I'm just connecting this, I'm just reading off the highlighted card.
By the way, after 9/11, Mayor Rudy Giuliani would not... after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani would not accept $10 million from the same Prince Al-Waleed, because he had cited Mideast policy as one of the reasons that we were attacked, which is the same reason they said that the imam down at the Ground Zero mosque was a radical.
So I think that, really, when you look at this card, and you do highlight it in yellow, the only thing you can come up with is: Is Fox News a terrorist command center? I don't know. I just don't know. I'm just saying that you can draw this up.
So, clearly, I'm being very fair. This whole thing has gotten crazy. In our panic, we've lost sight of something very important. If only someone could step up and cut through all this political posturing and fearmongering, and remind us what America is all about.
CHARLTON HESTON (5/1/1999): Tragedy has been, and will always be, with us. Somewhere right now, evil people are planning evil things. All of us will do everything meaningful, everything we can do to prevent it. But each horrible act can't become an axe for opportunists to cleave the very Bill of Rights that binds us.
Thank you, Charlton Heston. Of course, he was speaking out after another tragedy, when people on the left had demanded that the NRA, out of respect to the recent victims of Columbine, not hold their scheduled NRA convention in Denver, near the site of the tragedy. And by the way, I'm sure I probably would've been one of those people, painting too narrow a picture, connecting irresponsibly the actions of two psychotics, to an entire group of reasonable people expressing their Constitutional rights.
I was angry, and very thin. And my hair was dark, and I could not apparently buy a suit that fit. Why... did I have to wear Kilborn's suits? Wha... I don't understand!
The point is, I was wrong, and Heston was right. And if you replace "NRA" with "Muslim community", and "Second Amendment" with "First Amendment", he's still right.
HESTON: America must stop this predictable pattern of reaction. When an isolated, terrible event occurs, our phones ring demanding that the NRA explain the inexplicable. Why us? Because their story needs a villain. ... That is not our role in American society, and we will not be forced to play it. ... If you disagree, that's your right. I respect that. But we will not relinquish it, or be silenced about it, or be told, "Do not come here. You are unwelcome in your own land."
Well said, sir, and it gives me hope. Because if there's anyone who can bring Muslims, Christians, and Jews together, it's Moses.
After that, Jon followed it up with a debate segment between Team Mohammed and Team Jesus. They eventually made peace by teaming up against Jon.
And then in the Moment of Zen, Jon closed with this line from Heston's speech.
Hatred that is dividing our country. ... This harvest of hatred is then sold as news.
Guess who Jon is referencing there?
It's sad that other Jon Stewart has to carry the burden of the First Amendment when too many of our Democratic politicians are too scared to do so, as the GOP tries to foment anti-Muslim hysteria for political purposes. Other than Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Al Franken (D-MN), most Dems seem to be either silent on this, or are just twisted in knots over what to say.
Now, here's an uncomfortable point Jon raised. Flash back to 1999. What were you saying about the NRA's decision to hold their convention in Denver right after Columbine? Did you support their right to hold it, as scheduled, in Denver, no ifs, and, or buts?
Update: One of the people Fox News has been trotting out to rail against the proposed cultural center is Tim Brown, a 9/11 firefighter. Now here's a real doozy.
There have also been heated protests against proposed mosques in Staten Island (now canceled), Brooklyn, and across the country. Is your objection to Cordoba House about this particular proposal, or any mosque?
The families and first responders are primarily concerned about Rauf and co.'s intention to leverage the deaths of our friends and family members to recruit people into the Islamic ideology that is ruled by Shariah law. Most if not all mosques also promote Shariah law above the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We will also fight to defend our law, including freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, equal rights among all people and economic freedom.
This imam has shown us his radical ties. We will continue to expose him and anyone else tied to the same radical tendencies that killed our loved ones.
How do you oppose a Muslim facility while maintaining America's promise of religious freedom?
This is not an issue of religious freedom. The Muslim terrorists who flew the planes into those buildings did not believe in religious freedom; they believed in Shariah law, just like Rauf and co. Shariah law dictates that it is the law above all others. Rauf and co. and those Muslim terrorists believe in the same thing. They are just taking different paths to get there. We call Rauf's path "soft jihad."
Turns out Brown was the "executive director" of the mysterious Firefighters for Rudy group back in 2007 that pushed back against other firefighters' complains about what Rudy did before 9/11. Still, if a Democrat is up against Brown in a cable TV debate, because of his stature as a 9/11 first responder, what do you say so you don't come off looking like a total jackass?
Update II: And just on MSNBC, there was a guy, Andy Sullivan, wearing an American flag hard hat, who said he's part of a coalition of construction workers who say they'll refuse to help build the proposed mosque, and claimed it's not about religious intolerance, because, according to him, if it had been, "we would've stormed [the existing mosque in NYC] on 9/12". Seriously, dude?? And he says he's "just a guy from Brooklyn" who's fed up. You're playing into Osama's hands, you idiot!!
Oh, per this comment, Sullivan's the guy who claimed Obama was the anti-Christ before the 2008 elections. What a dipshit from Brooklyn.