The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), ostensibly a promoter of peace and understanding, has always sought out media allies willing to repeat its unending tales of victimization, and has achieved some success with outlets such as the Washington Post and Al-Jazeera.
But all through the recent imbroglio over a CAIR employee passing information to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a think tank that investigates radical Islamic terrorist groups, the Columbus Dispatch has emerged as one of CAIR's most ardent supporters. Its writers have spent the last several weeks repeating uncritically, almost gleefully, CAIR's accusations while ignoring CAIR's links to Hamas, the Islamic Association for Palestine, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Dispatch's articles are so one-sided that Cliff Smith, director of the Middle East Forum's Washington Project, suggests they violate the Gannett Company's ethical code for all its brands: to "be honest in the way we gather, report and present news — with relevancy, persistence, context, thoroughness, balance, and fairness of mind."
And no writer at the Dispatch seems more willing to tell CAIR's side of the story than Danae King. Her many articles on CAIR often quote only CAIR members and regularly refer to CAIR as a "Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization" and a "Muslim advocacy group" while calling the IPT "an anti-Muslim group." King's January 12 article features this sentence: "The IPT is based in Washington, D.C. and calls itself a nonprofit research group" (emphasis added). This phrase appears elsewhere in her work, for instance here and here.
King claimed in a local interview that she "aims to give a voice to the voiceless" (though CAIR is hardly "voiceless"), but this courtesy was hardly extended to Steven Emerson, the founder of IPT, for her December 21, 2021, piece where she wrote that her "phone call for comment to IPT on Tuesday evening was not immediately returned." IPT staff made its records available to me to show that King's call came in at 5:19 p.m. Her article was published at 5:33 p.m.
The day after CAIR's Facebook meeting where it announced its letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation into Emerson and the IPT, King's article (this time featuring a giant CAIR logo, dwarfing the Columbus Dispatch banner) referred to the IPT as "an anti-Muslim organization" in the first sentence, and in the second repeated nonchalantly the CAIR charge that Emerson "was working with the Israeli government."
I reached out to King, asking why her articles never mention CAIR's well-documented connections to terrorists and terrorist organizations, nor offer any evidence beyond CAIR's own feeble accusation that the IPT is "an anti-Muslim organization."
King eventually responded (petulantly) that she doesn't "take kindly to people questioning my work" and took particular umbrage at my suggestion she was simply repeating CAIR's talking points. She informed me that "The 'anti-Muslim' designation is not based on CAIR at all, but reputable, research-based, unbiased sources." When I pressed for details, she didn't respond to multiple attempts. Unlike the 14 minutes she gave Emerson, I was prepared to give her days (not minutes) to respond.
While waiting for King's reply, I went to the February 1 article again, and noticed it had been "updated." For some reason, the Wayback Machine (archive.org) cannot find the original version of the article, but I had printed copies of all the Dispatch articles on the CAIR-IPT story on February 2 or earlier, and paper doesn't lie. The article hadn't been "updated," with new developments — it had been altered. The "anti-Muslim organization" moniker had been removed from the first sentence, and a new paragraph citing Georgetown University's Bridge Initiative and the Center for American Progress had been added.
The Dispatch's IT department is going to have to work its magic on all the rest of Danae King's articles if they really want to remove every reference to the IPT as an "anti-Muslim group" or "anti-Muslim hate group," starting with the first one on December 14, titled: "Romin Iqbal, of CAIR-Ohio, fired for allegedly leaking information to anti-Muslim group." They'll have to change the title and URL to cover their tracks on that one.
But the credibility problem remains, because citing Georgetown's Bridge Initiative, or the Soros-funded, Clinton/Podesta-run Center for American Progress, is effectively the same as citing CAIR (which was my original accusation about King's work).
Here's how it works. CAIR runs a project called Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia. The Center for American Progress has an online pseudo-scholarly "study" titled Fear, Inc. And the Bridge Initiative curates an online catalogue of "fact sheets" (which are remarkably similar to CAIR's "Islamophobia Network"). So CAIR quotes Fear, Inc., which quotes the Bridge Initiative's fact sheets, which quote Fear Inc., which quotes the Islamophobia Network.
Consider that Fear, Inc. calls National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy "part of the echo chamber of the Islamophobia network," based on CAIR's page on National Review titled "Islamophobic Organizations: National Review." And the Bridge Initiative's "fact sheet" on McCarthy cites both Fear, Inc., and CAIR's Islamophobia Network. See how this shell game works?
The Council on American–Islamic Relations boasts a headquarters in Washington, D.C., offices in 20 states, hundreds of employees, and a soft spot in the hearts of an untold number of media personalities, newsreaders, and reporters.
If Danae King and the Columbus Dispatch were as passionate about facts as journalists should be when it comes to the powerful, they might discover this one: After CAIR tried unsuccessfully to have itself removed from a list of unindicted co-conspirators in a 2007 terrorism-financing case, federal circuit judge Jorge A. Solis denied the request, ruling that "the Government has produced ample evidence to establish the association of CAIR, ISNA, and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine ('IAP'), and with Hamas."
Journalism requires skepticism, not acquiescence. Unfortunately, far too many reporters simply repeat CAIR's accusations as fact. When pushed, they resort to CAIR's enablers, making them further enablers. This is the definition of a vicious cycle.
A.J. Caschetta is a Ginsberg-Milstein fellow at the Middle East Forum and a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.