Islamophobia

(EDITOR’S NOTE, 4/19/19, 5:05 PM ET: This article has been updated to include a response from Don Davis, the station’s vice president and general manager, acknowledging that the segment failed to include information about the speakers’ history of peddling Islamophobia.)

A local CBS affiliate station in Odessa, Texas is in the spotlight following a segment that’s been criticized for “uncritically” spreading Islamophobia.

A March 26 segment by CBS 7 Odessa reporter Gianni Windahl covered an event hosted by the Midland County, Texas Republican Women’s Club, in which featured speakers Elisabeth Sabaditsch Wolff of Sweden and Katie Hopkins of the United Kingdom spoke out against Muslim immigration in Europe. Both women warned the audience to watch out for Muslim immigration in the U.S. The segment ran just 11 days after a terror attack at a Christchurch, New Zealand mosque in which 50 Muslims were killed while worshipping.

Mother Jones reporter Ali Breland first spotted the segment, tweeting “i love it when news outlets uncritically cover and amplify islamophobia.” New York Magazine’s Yashar Ali also tweeted the clip, saying he had reached out to Gray Television, the owner of CBS 7, for comment on the segment.

“This is a despicable segment on @CBS7News,” Ali tweeted. “As @alibreland notes, it amplifies islamophobia because the topic was covered uncritically.”

In a follow-up tweet to the segment, Breland mentioned that Elisabeth Wolff, who was prominently featured in Windahl’s segment, was once convicted for hate speech in Austria in 2011 and had to pay a fine. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Wolff once spoke at a meeting hosted by Austria’s Freedom Party — whose founder was an SS officer in Nazi Germany — and described the Muslim prophet Mohammad as a pedophile.

Katie Hopkins, the other speaker at the Odessa meeting, was fired from her job as a broadcast host following a tweet in which she called for a “final solution” for Muslims after the 2017 terror attack in Manchester, UK. The phrase “final solution” is associated with the Holocaust, which the Nazis described as a “final solution” to deal with Jewish people. According to The Guardian, Hopkins has also written columns comparing immigrants to cockroaches, and once had to pay a defamation settlement of £150,000 ($194,970 USD) following a MailOnline column attacking a Muslim family.

Neither speaker’s background was mentioned in Windahl’s segment for CBS 7, and she did not interview any Muslims for her story.

Don Davis, the vice president and general manager of the station, admitted to Grit Post that the report “did not provide pertinent information on the speaker’s backgrounds for context.”

“We regret the information was not included and have discussed with news management to ensure that future reporting on such issues meets our journalistic standards,” Davis said.

 

Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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