Thursday, January 20, 2011

McCarthy: Sarah Palin did not 'libel' Imam Rauf

Payne's essay "is an embarrassment"
National Review Online's Andrew C. McCarthy takes issue with fellow NRO contributor Henry Payne over the latter's imagined 'libel' by gov. Palin of the Ground Zero Imam:
If you’ve been reading NRO lately, you saw published here on Monday “Palin Libels Rauf,” an essay by Henry Payne. Payne accuses the former Alaska governor of “libel” — his word — because she described Imam Rauf as a Hamas apologist who refused to identify that terrorist organization as a terrorist organization. But the quoted words were written by the editors of National Review. On August 4, 2010, as controversy raged over the GZM, NRO published an editorial describing Rauf as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Based on a number of disturbing facts that have not to this day been refuted, the editorial (“Not at Ground Zero”) portrayed the imam as a faux moderate collaborating with Muslim Brotherhood front groups to build a huge mosque and Islamic center on what the editors described as “the gravesite of 3,000 Americans who died at the hands of Islamic radicals” — a prospect the editors quite rightly called “unseemly.”

Now, I’m all for a good debate. That’s what NRO is here for. But a debate is a discussion in which adversaries actually address their points of disagreement. Payne doesn’t address any of the troubling matters that have been raised about Rauf, not only by NR’s editors and Sarah Palin, but by many, many others. Allowed to exploit NR’s megaphone, he treats our readers to a mendacious puff piece, leveling the weighty charge of libel while whitewashing the rich underlying basis for regarding Rauf as an apologist for Islamist terrorists in general, and for Hamas in particular.

According to Mr. Payne, Governor Palin “has spread libel herself about the Ground Zero Mosque imam, Feisal Rauf,” by claiming that “Rauf refuses to recognize that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of our ally, Israel.”

Libel, of course, is a legally actionable defamation, entitling the wronged party to sue for money damages against the alleged slanderer. That’s serious business. In fact, to conclude that a public figure like Rauf has been libeled is to maintain that the purported slanderer made her baseless accusation either knowing it was untrue or in reckless disregard of its falsity.

Why does Payne claim Palin is guilty of libel? Because recently — as recently, in fact, as a radio appearance in Detroit last week — Rauf has taken to asserting that “Hamas is a terrorist organization. They have committed terrorist acts.” So one might ask Mr. Payne, “You mean to tell me Rauf didn’t refuse to call Hamas a terrorist organization? Are you saying that Palin knew Rauf had called Hamas a terrorist organization yet publicly claimed that he refused to do so?”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Payne’s answers. They’re sure not in his essay, which is just as cavalier about flinging libel accusations as he baselessly accuses Palin of being when it comes to Rauf. Not to mince words, the essay is an embarrassment. Its speciousness is betrayed in the first few lines. There, he acknowledges that Palin’s remarks were made “on her Facebook page last year” — that is, many months before Rauf repackaged himself as the scourge (sort of) of Hamas.

h/t: Joseph Klein

- JP

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