What do you get when you combine fake news with fake victimhood? Well, you get this story.
A story involving Ibtihaj Muhammad, U.S. Olympian and first Muslim-American female to win gold for the United States who is also an American citizen born and raised in New Jersey, claimed last week that she had been detained and questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agents for two hours without explanation.
Muhammad made this claim on February 7th, saying her detention occurred only a “few weeks ago,” putting her incident right around the time of President Trump’s inauguration. Which, because fact-checking is something the mainstream media only does when it serves their cause, led to many in the media to characterize the story as a Muslim-American Olympic hero getting caught in the web of President Trump’s harsh, terrible, and non-existent Muslim ban.
However, we now know that Muhammad’s detention did not last two hours, and it occurred during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration.
According to an official with Customs and Border Enforcement who spoke with the Washington Examiner on condition of anonymity, Muhammad’s detention was nothing remarkable whatsoever. The official said, “She comes and goes many times. She travels quite extensively. She has never been stopped before. She wasn’t targeted. The checks are totally random; random checks that we all might be subject to.”
Muhammad was also not held for two hours, he said, adding that “the entire ordeal wrapped up in under an hour.”
The official also said, “This all happened in December, which was well before any executive order. Which is a totally separate incident.”
While true that Muhammad never initially gave an actual date of the incident in which she was detained, it’s equally important to note that she deliberately allowed for the media to run with the story as if it had occurred during the Trump Administration.
Below is a portion of an interview, also quoted in the Washington Examiner, which Muhammad gave to Popsugar’s Lindsay Miller about her detainment by customs. Note the specific nature of the lead question and Muhammad’s direct, personal response:
Popsugar: Do you know anyone who was directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban?
Ibtihaj Muhammad: Well, I personally was held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.
Unfortunately, I know that people talk about this having a lot to do with these seven countries in particular, but I think the net is cast a little bit wider than we know. And I’m included in that as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.
How odd for Muhammad to claim she’s suffered direct impact by things, when she knows for a fact she has not suffered direct impact by those things. Unless, of course, Muhammad is deliberately misleading people.
The purpose here isn’t to blame Muhammad and absolve the media, nor blame the media and absolve Muhammad. The point is to highlight the fact that the media eagerly gobbled up a story without even cursory fact-checking, from an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration, because their agenda happened to coincide with an activist with an axe to grind.
Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad was detained because of President Trump’s travel ban https://t.co/8jOOZIaDzM
— TIME (@TIME) February 9, 2017
If that can happen, without a trained journalist so much as asking Muhammad for the date in which the detention occurred, then it cannot be said that the media is merely biased. At this point, the media are nothing more than activists with press passes.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn