Pamela Geller's Pretty Hate Machine
The far-right, anti-Islam, anti-Obama blogger brings her outrage to Newsmax -- thus making her the odds-on favorite to become the next Newsmax columnist to go too far.
By Terry Krepel
Newsmax has had a bad run of late with its columnists.
Longtime writer John L. Perry penned a column advocating a military coup against President Obama; Newsmax removed it after a public outcry, and Perry hasn't written for Newsmax since. After giving Bernard Kerik a column and spending months trying to rehabilitate his reputation amid corruption allegations, quietly put him aside after he pleaded guilty to several of the charges.
Then Pat Boone, in a Nov. 2 column, described Obama and his administration as "political voracious varmints" who must be dealt with, "figuratively, but in a very real way," by "tenting" the White House the way one does with a house infested by rodents; Newsmax had to pull that one too, though Boone has continued as a columnist. (WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, does not object to Boone's eliminationist rhetoric, as the column still resides there.)
So who's next? We nominate Pamela Geller as the next Newsmax columnist most likely to have a claim quietly retracted.
Geller -- a former associate publisher of the New York Observer formerly married to a New York car dealer that owned a dealership linked not only to an alleged fraud scam but the killing of two police officers (the dealership is listed as partly owned by Geller, who has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the alleged scam) -- is rabidly anti-Obama, anti-Islam and pro-birther. She has also had dalliances with European fascists and promoted the far-right British National Party. (Geller doesn't think these folks are "neofascist," apparently feeling that their anti-Islamic activism excuses their political leanings.) Geller's Newsmax columns reflect these views.
Indeed, Geller -- who once notoriously published a video blog of herself in a bikini -- is one pretty hate machine.
Her very first Newsmax column, on Aug. 4, went deep into birther territory, rehashing discredited and irrelevant conspiracies regarding Barack Obama's birth certificate. Geller spent a needlessly large amount of space on the case of Jay McKinnon, who in July 2008 posted what he claimed to be Obama's birth certificate on the Daily Kos website that, according to Geller, "even to the layman’s eye, it was obvious that the Kos COLB had been altered." Geller touted how the Israel Insider website broke the news that McKinnon "implicated himself in the production of palpably fake Hawaii birth certificate images."
Missing from Geller's account is McKinnon's side of the story. In an interview posted on Daily Kos, McKinnon said that he posted the fake certificate to serve as a magnet for conspiracy theorists (like Geller). McKinnon also discussed Israel Insider, a right-wing, anti-Obama blog with ties to WorldNetDaily's similarly right-wing, anti-Obama reporter Aaron Klein:
Opendna: Reuven Koret, publisher of Isreal Insider, has written that you admitted to forgery.
Geller then went on to claim that the birth certificate posted on Obama's campaign website is a "horrible forgery," according to the analysis of "Techdude."Geller summarized "Techdude's" credentials:
He is an active member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the American College of Forensic Examiners, the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners, the International Information Systems Forensics Association the list goes on.
Geller also referenced other baseless Obama conspiracies, such as "the passport on which he traveled to Pakistan in 1981." Surprisingly, though, she dismissed the Kenyan birth certificate that WorldNetDaily desperately wanted to believe was real as an "obvious forgery."
Geller then complained about the "veritable birth certificate circus" for distracting right-wingers, blaming not ringleaders like herself for this situation but ... Obama:
Let’s not cloud the issue. Obama’s COLB was altered. He should produce the vault copy. Then the opposition can get on with the business of stopping his destruction of the economy and his weakening of American hegemony as he pursues his disastrous foreign policy.
Geller doesn't seem to comprehend the possibility that the "circus" could easily end when circus clowns like herself choose to stop telling lies.
When a report surfaced in October purporting to describe a college thesis Obama wrote, Geller was among the right-wingers to promote it at her blog -- at least, until it was proven to be a fraud. Writing about it in her Oct. 27 Newsmax column, Geller not only embraces the fake-but-accurate defense -- that Obama could have plausibly written it -- but also invents a way to blame Obama for the whole thing:
If Barack Obama would release his Columbia thesis, this latest media pseudo-controversy would never have happened. But now the tittering hyenas on the left are howling at the moon over the satire of Obama’s thesis that was taken for the real thing by Rush Limbaugh, as well as by Denis Keohane at The American Thinker and Michael Ledeen at Pajamas Media.
Geller went on to falsely portray Obama's statements in a 2001 radio interview in order to fit her preconceived script that Obama wants to redistribute the nation's wealth:
He said that it was a tragedy that the Constitution wasn’t radically reinterpreted to force redistribution of the wealth: “I am not optimistic,” he said, “about bringing about redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn’t structured that way.” He praised the civil rights movement and its “litigation strategy in the court” for succeeding in vesting “formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples.”
In fact, as ConWebWatch documented when other right-wingers did the same thing, Obama never claimed it was a "tragedy that the Constitution wasn’t radically reinterpreted to force redistribution of the wealth." What Obama called a tragedy was the civil rights movement's reliance on the court system to bring about change instead of grassroots work.
Geller went on to write:
This was the fault of the Supreme Court and the Constitution itself: “But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as people tried to characterize the Warren court, it wasn’t that radical.”
That's a false interpretation as well. Obama never expressed a desire for the court to "break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution" during that interview, as Geller claimed; he was merely pointing out that it didn't.
Sometimes Geller just explodes with visceral hatred for Obama, as she did in a Nov. 17 column on the decision to try suspected terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a civilian court instead of a military court:
President Obama is dropping another O-bomb on America with the decision to try the masterminds of the shocking attack of Sept. 11, 2001, in a New York courtroom.
(UPDATE 1/12/2010: Newsmax has removed the Nov. 17 column from its website. It has provided no public explanation of why. However, an Aug. 26 column in which she first asserted that "America electing an America-hater for president vanquished our moral authority" remains live.)
Geller hates Obama as much as she hates Islam. Here's one of her anti-Muslim rants, from a Nov. 12 column:
We are witnessing an Islamized America. This is well beyond political correctness. We are enforcing Shariah. We will not insult Islam. That is Shariah. We self censor. That is Shariah. We disrespect ourselves, our nation, so that we might respect Islam. This is dhimmitude.
One of Geller's biggest cause celebres in her Newsmax column is Fathima Rifqa Bary, an Ohio teen who fled to a Florida pastor claiming her parents want to kill her for converting from Islam to Christianity. But Geller took a one-sided view of the Bary case, ignoring exculpatory evidence.In an Aug. 13 column, Geller hyperbolically asserted: "Rifqa’s testimony is a plea to the free world to stand for its values and its principles. How far we have fallen when a young woman is pleading to be free in the land of the free, home of the brave. Rifqa Bary’s life hangs in the balance. The West should do everything in its power to save her."
But the full facts of the case diverge greatly from what Geller wrote. As Christianity Today reported, Bary's story is being promoted by the pastor who whom she fled, Blake Lorenz, whom the girl found through Facebook, and the parents are telling a much different story:
The attorney representing Bary's mother told Orlando-based 10TV News that they were "allowing [Bary] to explore her Christianity," and that Bary wasn't fearful until she met Pastor Lorenz, who holds Bary tightly throughout the video.
Further, as religious blogger Richard Bartholomew points out, the pastor to whom Bary fled, Blake Lorenz, "believes that he receives special personal messages from God about the imminent end of the world," which raises questions about whether he's exploiting Bary to promote his own ministry.
Christianity Today concluded:
Of course, believers can rejoice that this teenager has come to Christ in a cultural context in which it would be difficult to betray her parents' teaching. And if Bary's claims are true, we can also hope that her legal case is handled fairly and wisely, and that she finds support from Christian mentors and friends. But none of this requires that Christians be quick to use Bary's claims to prove that Muslims in this case, her parents and mosque leaders are intent on killing Bary because their beliefs make them inherently violent.
That last point is exactly what Geller appears to want to push by ignoring the full story. indeed, Geller used an Aug. 17 column to defend Lorenz via misdirection: She doesn't deny the accusation, asserting instead that Islam, "the group that silently approves of the murder of a daughter who shames her family by not wearing the proper head dress ... or by choosing another religion (like Rifqa Bary)," is the real cult and not "the group that offers sanctuary to a poor threatened girl."
In an Aug. 24 column, Geller accused the "media shills and Islamic machinery in the United States" of distorting the Bary case. But of course, Geller was still hurling her own distortions.
Geller's main target of ire is Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, whose column pointing the anti-Muslim bias surrounding the Bary case Geller immediately distorted: "Thomas got nothing right. Not one detail. Further, at no point did he consider Rifqa’s testimony. At no point did he consider the consequences of Rifqa’s testimony. At no point did he consider the risk to Rifqa’s life."
Actually, Thomas got numerous facts correct -- facts Geller would rather not have get out, such as pointing out that Bary's father is "a middle-class jeweler with no documented history of abuse and no record of radical actions or beliefs" and noting pictures of Bary in a cheerleader outfit: "Somehow I can't imagine a Muslim extremist allowing his daughter to wear short skirts and shake pompoms in front of a crowd of infidels."
Geller responded to that last point with the nonsequitur: "Thomas knows nothing of honor killings in the West."
Geller went on to complain: "The media reported only the parents’ Islamist narrative giving Rifqa’s story no air time or ink. They repeated the lies over and over again." But Geller does not know that the parents are lying, or that Rifqa is telling the truth. (Nor do we, for that matter.) Yet Geller has already made up her mind to promote her anti-Islam agenda, which of courses he denies she's doing, insisting instead that "there was an anti-Christian bias. The mainstream media vilified the good Christians who provided sanctuary to Rifqa, who sought only to escape her father’s threat to kill her." Again, Geller failed to mention the cult-like tendencies of the "good Christians who provided sanctuary to Rifqa."
Further contradicting herself, Geller concludes with an anti-Islamic rant:
Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Geert Wilders: these truth tellers live under 24-hour guard because of Islamic death threats, which they received because they spoke the truth about Islam. Rifqa Bary has committed a far worse crime from the Islamic perspective: the crime of apostasy. Her testimony is far more dangerous to the stealth jihadists in America.
And she's accusing other people of distorting the case?
Similarly, Geller's Sept. 14 Newsmax column is one long screed against Newsweek for doing what Geller won't -- tell both sides of the Rifqa Bary story. Geller complained that the Newsweek stated that "Muslim scholars say that in Islam, there’s no such thing as an honor killing for apostasy," asserting that "Newsweek was conflating two distinct Islamic practices: honor killing and the killing of apostates." She didn't mention that it appears that Bary herself is the one conflating the two, as news reports featuring references to "honor killings" indicate. As Richard Bartholomew noted in August:
The girl gives a rather strange interpretation of what an “honour killing” is for; rather than being the remedy for a perceived dishonour suffered by a family, she tells the journalist that to kill her would be an especially ”great honour” because she is the the first Christian in her family for “150 generations” and it would show her family’s love for Allah (Lorenz concurs with a “yes” at 5:03). This seems to me to be a garbled “Christianized” understanding of the phenomenon, making it into something like a human sacrifice.
Geller went on to complain that Newsweek described a "33-page memorandum that Rifqa’s attorney, John Stemberger, filed about the Noor Islamic Center’s connection with Islamic terrorists and radical elements" as being filled with "innuendo and provocative allegations." In fact, Newsweek supports its claims:
Among them: that the center is connected to an FBI terror probe (which the FBI denies) and that its CEO has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood (which, along with every other allegation, the Noor Center denies). The mosque is actually regarded as mainstream and regularly hosts interfaith events.
Geller's sole source for contradicting the Newsweek article is "Jamal Jivanjee, Rifqa’s friend and confidante." But Geller offered no independent confirmation of these claims; Jivanjee is clearly too close to the situation to be an objective source of information. Yet Geller treated his claims as incontrovertible truth.
Why is Geller so afraid of the other side being told? That she is so intent on trying to discredit an article that commits the apostasy (as far as Geller is concerned) of telling both sides of the story belies a certain insecurity about the side of the story she's on.
Geller again declares of Rifqa: "As a high-profile apostate, she is Islamists’ highest value target right now." If she's "high-profile," it's anti-Muslim activists like Geller that made her one. Which means she's partially culpable for any harm that comes Rifqa's way.
Geller's Dec. 2 column purported to be outraged that Bary -- who by this time had been returned to Ohio and placed in foster care -- is "in imminent danger of being returned to her family" and is being "deprived of access to the phone and Internet as well as "pastoral guidance," adding, "Convicts, murderers, rapists, and pedophiles all have access to 'pastoral guidance.'" Given that the pastor to whom Bary fled believes that he receives special personal messages from God about the imminent end of the world, a lack of "pastoral guidance" is probably a good thing. Of course, Geller is silent about the pastor's beliefs.
Geller also repeated unsupported claims of hostile Muslims, alluding to "powerful and influential Islamic supremacists" and "myriad busts for jihad activity in recent weeks." She also again treated "close friend and fellow ex-Muslim" Jamal Jivanjee as a credible source, even though he's clearly too close to the case to be objective. Indeed, Geller quoted Jivanjee aping her: “If you are incarcerated in an American prison today, you have the right to have a visit from a pastor. Rifqa Bary does not have this most basic right that most criminals have today.”
Geller summed up by claiming that Bary is "isolated, alone, and in danger of being returned to Islamic jihadists who believe apostates from Islam should be killed. What has happened to America?"
The facts, however, are different than what Geller suggests. As the Columbus Dispatch has reported, no credible threats to Bary have been found by authorities in either Florida or Ohio, and Ohio officials are attempting to work out a solution between Bary and her family. A caseworker wrote that there are "severe differences between the parents' and Rifqa's perceptions of what has occurred."
Putting fearmongering before the truth, however, is what Geller does. And that -- coupled with her hyperbolic attacks -- makes Geller the odds-on favorite to be the next Newsmax columnist to write something her publisher will have to walk back or retract.