Erik Wemple of The Washington Post is a self-described “scandalous journalist” who takes cues from Media Matters for America. In February, the Daily Caller called out nine journalists who took material from MMFA. Wemple wasn’t one of them. But he felt left out. So he wrote:
After reading those words, I’ve spent many hours of quiet agony. These nine journalists, after all, have had to bear the brunt of this scandal without my solidarity. It’s unfair of me, I decided, to allow my peers to absorb all this public humiliation while I sit in my cube, immune from consequence.
Wemple went on to state, facetiously, that he was “guilty” because he had used material from MMFA emails. But, of course, this was also an attempt by Wemple to discount any coordination between MMFA and members of the mainstream media.
Today, it became clear that Wemple does more than simply read and exchange emails with the MMFA staff. He shills for them.
Today, Wemple went after Breitbart News’ Dana Loesch for stating that President Obama “went to one of the madrassas over in Indonesia for a while, so he knows, I mean, he, which is kind of like the equivalent in Islam of a Catholic school in Catholicism. So there’s that.” Loesch was responding to a caller who claimed that Obama had “been born with a Koran in his hand.”
MMFA immediately pounced, suggesting that Loesch was lying because Obama’s campaign said back in 2007 that he did not attend a “madrassa,” but a “predominantly Muslim school while living in Indonesia.” MMFA admitted that the word “madrassa” means “a Muslim school,” but said that “the American media have most commonly applied the word to schools that sprang up in South Asia after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and engage in anti-Western ‘political indoctrination.’”
That’s the fault of the media. Some madrassas are fine, and some are rotten to the core. But that doesn’t mean that a madrassa isn’t a Muslim school, or that non-extremist Muslim schools must be called by a different name. Back in 2005, The Nation ran a long piece explaining the origin of madrassas and explaining that “The western media, a powerful tool, printed exaggerated stories about madrassahs, giving them a bad name.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported in August 2005 that labeling madrassas the source of terrorism is a “soothing illusion.” According to Andrea L. Stanton, Peter J. Seybolt, Edward Ramsamy, and Carolyn M. Elliott in Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, “madrassa in Arabic means a place where one studies lessons, both religious and secular.”
But instead of blaming the media for misdefining the word “madrassa,” MMFA, with Wemple’s help, targets Loesch.
Wemple dutifully reported the MMFA line, and then proceeded to email Loesch about the story. After a back and forth, Wemple concluded:
There’s no way that this blogger is burrowing into the “madrassa” semantic rabbit hole with Loesch. You do not need to be a scholar on world religious education and culture to capture the essence of her exchange with the “Koran” caller. She was expressing ideological kinship with him. The only part of her response that matters is the words “Well, yeah.”
First off, if Wemple isn’t going to get into the semantics, he shouldn’t be inserting himself in the story. The entire story is semantics.
But Wemple’s real point is that Loesch somehow implied, according to Wemple, that Obama was born a Muslim. This is simply wrong on its face. Loesch says nothing of the kind.
Not only that – even MMFA admits that the word “madrassa” means Muslim school. The CNN report that Wemple relies on to state that Obama didn’t attend madrassa got the story wrong -- the story misdefined the word “madrassa” to mean “a radical Muslim school.” This was inaccurate. Obama went to a Muslim school. He says so himself. A Muslim school is by definition a madrassa. Not all madrassas are bad. Some are. End of story. If CNN can’t use an Arabic dictionary, that’s their problem.
Loesch even spelled out that it was a Muslim school the same way a Catholic school is Catholic. In Obama’s own words in Dreams From My Father, “In Indonesia, I’d spent 2 years at a Muslim school, 2 years at a Catholic school.” So Loesch was exactly correct. She simply used the Arabic word for Muslim school, and she compared it to Catholic school, just as Obama did. Obama attended Islamic prayers in school, according to one teacher. According to the Chicago Tribune, “When Obama attended 4th grade in 1971, Muslim children spent two hours a week studying Islam.”
Does any of this really matter? Of course not. It only mattes in stating that Obama has greater-than-average familiarity with Islam, which Obama himself claims. But turning the word “madrassa” into a slur is insipid.
Just another hit job from another MMFA lackey. Erik Wemple’s figurative check is surely in the mail from Eric Boehlert and company.