Writing for a Washington Post that apparently decided his column was too good to check, columnist Dana Milbank attacked the conservative Heritage Foundation for bullying a female Muslim woman who expressed concern about Muslim stereotyping during a panel Monday night. The only problem with Milbank’s charge is that it’s a smear — it never happened. And of all places, it is video from the left-wing Media Matters that debunks Milbank’s entire column.
Then Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, stood in the back of the room and asked a question in a soft voice. “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she told them. “We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”
Panelist Brigitte Gabriel of a group called ACT! for America pounced. She said “180 million to 300 million” Muslims are “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” She told Ahmed that the “peaceful majority were irrelevant” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and she drew a Hitler comparison: “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died.
“Are you an American?” Gabriel demanded of Ahmed, after accusing her of taking “the limelight” and before informing her that her “political correctness” belongs “in the garbage.”
“Where are the others speaking out?” Ahmed was asked. This drew an extended standing ovation from the nearly 150 people in the room, complete with cheers.
The panel’s moderator, conservative radio host Chris Plante, grinned and joined in the assault. “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?” he demanded of Ahmed.
“Yeah,” audience members taunted, “yeah.”
Ahmed answered quietly, as before. “I guess it’s me right now,” she said.
Sounds like a pretty ugly scene, until you watch actual video of the incident. What Milbank chose not to tell his readers is legion. The exchange between the Muslim student and the panel is not only the opposite of hostile, it is downright polite:
Milbank’s dishonesty is immediate. He claims that as soon as the student finished her question, one of the panelists “pounced.” But as the video proves, that’s not at all what happened. The first person who spoke was Frank Gaffney, who not only thanks her for the question but seems to agree with her. “I can say safely that there isn’t anyone on this panel who believes that all Muslims are the problem,” he says softly, before adding, “I certainly don’t.”
Moreover, Brigitte Gabriel, the woman Milbank accuses of “pouncing,” did not pounce. Her first words, which Milbank chose not to share with his readers, were, “Great question.” Gabriel then assures the woman that no one on the panel was talking about Muslims or Islam. The panel is about what our government is doing with respect to Benghazi.
Just as Gaffney did, Gabriel then agrees with the qustioner, agreeing that “a majority of [Muslims]are peaceful people,” and goes on to back that belief up with numbers provided by American intelligence reports.
Milbank just made up his anecdote about Gabriel “demanding” to know if the young woman was American. What Gabriel really said was, “I assume you’re an American.” After the studens says that she is, Gabriel says, “I’m glad you’re here.” She then goes on to make a point about how she wishes people would worry more about the government’s response to the Benghazi attacks than how many peaceful Muslims there are in the world.
The problem here isn’t Milbank, who is and always has been an irrational left-winger. I have no doubt that upon filing this column, Milbank could barely contain his excitement knowing he would be the toast of MSNBC (where he’s a frequent commentator) the next day.
The real question is: Where are the Washington Post fact checkers? Where are Milbank’s editors? A major newspaper publishing this kind of smear is beyond bias; it’s indecent.