“The foreign terrorist threat in the United States is one of the most important issues we face as a society today ... [there are] distinct possibilities of mass civilian murder the likes of which have not been seen since World War II.” These were the prescient words of Steven Emerson, testifying before the Senate almost four years ago. Mr. Emerson, an award winning journalist, and producer of the PBS documentary Jihad in America, is perhaps the nation’s leading expert on terrorism and Islamic extremism. He has consistently warned, in interviews and published essays, that the United States faces an ominous and accelerating threat of mass domestic terror attacks perpetrated by groups operating under the banner of Islam.
A recent article written with Daniel Pipes, for example, warned that Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group:
... are better thought of as soldiers, not criminals. To fight Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups requires an understanding that they (along with some states) have silently declared war on the U.S.; in turn, we must fight them as we would in a war. (Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2001)
With the horrific attacks in New York and Washington, apparently carried out by bin Laden’s forces, Mr. Emerson’s most dire predictions have come true.
For his efforts, Mr. Emerson has incurred the wrath of certain self-appointed Muslim “defense” organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslim Council, which have branded him a “racist” and an anti-Muslim “bigot.” Some of these organizations, such as CAIR, have been credibly accused of having direct links to terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Others have expressed clear sympathy and understanding for terrorists and their alleged grievances.
Considering the sources, this criticism of Emerson is hardly surprising. What is perhaps surprising is that since 1998 publicly-funded National Public Radio has blacklisted Mr. Emerson. Ironically enough, NPR’s ban came to light just after US cruise missile strikes against Osama bin Laden’s organization, which had been implicated in suicide bomb attacks on US embassies in Africa.
Covering that US strike, NPR’s Talk of the Nation program on August 20, 1998 briefly interviewed Emerson, spurring an immediate and furious reaction from CAIR and its followers. One of those followers, Chicago-based activist Ali Abunimah, had, after a previous Emerson appearance on NPR, received assurances that Mr. Emerson would be banned from the network. As NPR’s Michael Fields put it, Emerson’s appearance had been a “mistake” and “it won’t happen again.”
When, on August 20 Emerson did again appear, Abunimah e-mailed NPR producer Ellen Silva, stating that he was:
shocked and disappointed that TOTN had Steven Emerson on its call in show today as a guest. Mr. Emerson is a well-documented anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racist. ... Last time, I accepted the explanation that it had been an innocent error. But how many errors can be innocent? This is a very serious matter and will require an appropriate response.... We will be listening very carefully, and pursuing this matter further. Ali Abunimah.
The next day Ms. Silva sent the following servile reply:
thank you for your letter. our executive producer was in charge of that decision...not me... i take your point and extend an apology to you from the staff of totn. please take care, -ellen
When Abunimah objected that an apology was not enough, NPR’s Silva did not disappoint the pro-Arab activist, assuring him:
... you have my promise he [Emerson] won’t be used again. it is npr policy.
After this correspondence came to light, senior NPR official Jeffrey Dvorkin (now the network’s ombudsman) insisted that Silva misspoke, and that:
... there never was and never will be a policy of banning or blacklisting at NPR... Mr. Emerson is not "banned", and in fact we anticipate that he will be on NPR again at an appropriate time.
The “appropriate time” apparently has yet to arrive, for, even now, after Emerson’s warnings have come true, and we have seen thousands of Americans killed by Islamic-extremists, NPR’s defacto blacklist is still in effect. In the last few days Emerson has been interviewed by CBS, Fox News, MSNBC and many other media outlets, but not NPR, depriving the publicly-funded network’s listeners of his unique insights into the grave problems that our nation must now confront.
NPR, which has long shown a decided pro-Arab and anti-Israel tilt in its reporting (see www.camera.org), seems to do whatever Mr. Arafat and his minions in the US desire. Now, at long last, it is time for a change. NPR must end the blacklist – and the tilt – without delay.