Roger Ailes Muslim 'Worshipper' Fixation

The Fox News head takes issue with the AP's characterization of people praying in mosques

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In Howard Kurtz's Newsweek profile of Roger Ailes, the Fox News head honcho had a few choice words for another news organization. Not its cable news rivals, CNN and MSNBC, but rather, the Associated Press. In particular, Alies wasn't happy with an recent AP story he read about a suicide bombing in Baghdad. Here's what he had to say:

Ailes is angry about an Associated Press report that 29 worshipers were killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad’s largest Sunni mosque during prayers. “How do we know they were worshiping?" he demands. "I think the AP is so far over the hill, they’ve become left wing, antiwar. Gotta watch their copy."

While it's hardly uncommon for media organizations to criticize one another's coverage, Ailes' comment today has struck some as particularly strange. He seems to be referring to an AP brief filed nearly a month ago that began: "Iraqi police and hospital officials say 29 worshippers have been killed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque during prayers." The New Republic's Timothy Noah doesn't see why those attending a mosque can't be called "worshippers." "What the hell does Ailes think Sunni Muslims do when they go to the mosque? Brush their teeth?" he wrote. "And the phrase 'during prayer' doesn't leave much room for ambiguity. I applaud Ailes' impulse to be judicious, but he should deploy it more constructively." Andrew Sullivan is a bit less generous in his criticism of Ailes's comment, writing that it reveals his right-wing bias:

Ailes seems to believe that an assumption that Muslims in a Mosque were at prayer is a function of "left-liberalism" not empirical fact. Why? Because, persumably, the sacrilegious carnage would reflect badly on the aftermath of the Iraq war and occupation - showing that we had achieved almost nothing after so much sacrifice. This is wrong because it would be "anti-war," and therefore "left wing". Not because it's untrue.

What makes Ailes's "worshippers" critique even more bizarre is that the other two major news wires, Bloomberg and Reuters, regularly use the word to describe this killed in suicide bombings at mosques. Even a story published yesterday called victims of a mosque bombing in Indonesia "terrified worshippers." Given that, singling out a 99-word, month-old clip from the AP for using a word that makes the victims of terrorism more sympathetic seems like a cheap potshot at the AP and the "liberal" media in general. (This not the first time Fox News has had issue with an AP term. Back in 2005, they ran search and replace to swap "suicide bomber" with "homicide bomber" in AP copy.) Which seems to be something that Alies likes to do when he's interviewed by Howard Kurtz. Last November, he told Hurtz that Jon Stewart was "crazy" and that NPR "are, of course, Nazis."

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