Obama State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said on Tuesday that the planned protest by an obscure Florida Christian church in which Korans will be burned is “un-American” and the protesters are “consistent with” those al Qaeda terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 Americans and foreign nationals on September 11, 2001.
Crowley was commenting on plans by the fifty-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday by burning around 200 Korans on the church’s property. Crowley sought to bring public pressure on the church to cancel the protest. According to the State Department transcript of Tuesday’s briefing:
We hope that between now and Saturday, there’ll be a range of voices across America that make clear to this community that this is not the way for us to commemorate 9/11. In fact, it is consistent with the radicals and bigot – with those bigots who attacked us on 9/11.
The press corps at the briefing did not question Crowley about his comparison between burning Korans with the 9/11 attacks. However, they did press him on the First Amendment rights of the church.
Crowley acknowledged those rights, but only as a formality before rhetorically bludgeoning the church and its pastor Terry Jones for the planned protest. In addition, Crowley called the protest “un-American,” even as he acknowledged that he would not call burning the American flag un-American.
Spokesmen for the church said Tuesday they still plan to burn the Koran on Saturday. Pastor Jones said he has taken to carrying a firearm for protection after receiving more than one hundred death threats.