Fareed Zakaria's recent stance on the issue of censoring offensive material mischaracterizes his formerly stated role in Yale's decision not to republish cartoons that featured Mohammed.
In discussing Sony's decision to scrap The Interview, Zakaria stated that Yale was wrong in 2009 when it decided to keep cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that featured Mohammed out of "The Cartoons That Shook the World," a book published by the university.
"As a trustee of the university, I was asked to defend the decision, one I would not have made," Zakaria said on Dec. 21 on CNN's GPS regarding the 2009 decision. "Swayed by my concerns for an institution I love deeply and a group of administrators I respect greatly, I made a statement supporting the university's actions that I have always deeply regretted."
The cartoons in question were initially published in 2006 by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. They caused violent protests throughout the Muslim world and also years of death threats to the cartoonist responsible.
Zakaria's statement that he did not agree with Yale's final decision but supported it due to his loyalty to the university is in stark contrast with comments made at the time of the decision.
Writing in the Yale Alumni Magazine in 2009, Zakaria stated that he "advised" the university's publication to avoid publishing the cartoons.
"I advised Yale Press not to republish the Danish cartoons in an upcoming book, and I am relieved that the press heeded my counsel as well as the advice of many others," wrote Zakaria. "I was certain that reprinting these images would have provoked violence."
The Yale decision to not publish the cartoons was presented by multiple sources as being the result of Zakaria's guidance.
Fox News wrote that Zakaria "told Yale that he believed publishing the images would have provoked violence."
Yale was criticized for not including the cartoons in a book about them.
Reza Aslan, an outspoken liberal known for fighting "bigotry" against Muslims, said that the Zakaria-supported notion that a "definitive account of the entire controversy" could be presented without the actual cartoons was "idiotic."
"It's not just academic cowardice, it is just silly and unnecessary," said Aslan in 2009.
In regards to Zakaria's claim that he was "certain" that Yale's reprinting of the images "would have provoked violence," Aslan said that there was "no chance of this book having a global audience, let alone causing a global outcry."