In an article published on Slate yesterday, editor Dahlia Lithwick does a great job documenting the genesis of the wingnut assault on Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, which reached a sort of apex yesterday when Fox News actually accused the Obama administration of trying to impose Sharia law in the United States. Lithwick writes:
It's 11:45 a.m. on April 1, and if you run a Google News search on Harold Koh, dean of Yale Law School and President Obama's pick for legal adviser to the State Department, here's what you'll find: 13 pieces on far-right Web sites characterizing Koh as dangerous and anti-American; several Fox News stories, updated several times daily, one of which describes the anti-Koh screeds as "burning up the Internet"; and a measly two blog posts defending Koh from these attacks. By the time you read this, I suspect that Fox News will have a scrolling red banner that reads, "Obama's Koh pick imperils us all" (and ... wait for it ... BINGO!), the anti-Koh pieces will number 18, and the pro-Koh blog posts will number three.
And yet by my most recent tally, every one of the anti-Koh rants dutifully repeats a canard that first appeared in a hatchet piece in the New York Post by former Bush administration speechwriter Meghan Clyne. She asserts that Koh believes "Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts." The evidence for her claim? "A New York lawyer, Steven Stein, says that, in addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, Koh claimed that 'in an appropriate case, he didn't see any reason why Sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States.' "
Needless to say, if the future lawyer for the State Department wanted to apply Shariah law willy-nilly in American courtrooms, it would be a terrifying prospect.
As Lithwick writes, it turns out that the story spun by Mr. Stein was completely false; Koh never proposed imposing Sharia law in the U.S. The organizer of the event at which Koh spoke wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post debunking the allegations:
I was the organizer of the Yale Club of Greenwich event on March 13, which Meghan Clyne references.
The account given by Steve Stein of Dean Koh's comments is totally fictitious and inaccurate. I was in the room with my husband and several fellow alumni, and we are all adamant that Koh never said or suggested that sharia law could be used to govern cases in US courts.
The subject of his talk was Globalization and Yale Law School, so, of course, other forms of law were mentioned. But never did Koh state or suggest that other forms of law should govern or dictate the American legal system.
Hopefully, your readers are interested in the facts.
Robin Reeves Zorthian
Yale Alumni Association of Greenwich
Still, despite the obvious malice behind the assault on Koh, it continues unabated in the wingnut-o-sphere and on Fox and on Glenn Beck's program. Lithwick writes that the silence of the mainstream media in the face of these vicious attacks is effectively complicity in the face of character assassination, and she's right.
Reporters may not feel like it's their obligation to come to Harold Koh's defense. But if they continue to let falsehoods about the Koh's of the world stand, one day some of them will find that they have become the targets of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
When that happens, will they wish they had spoken up when they still had a chance?