Monday, April 26, 2004

SEVERIN DENIES CHARGES. I just listened to Jay Severin's opening monologue on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). Severin addressed the claim made by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that he had said on his show last Thursday, "I've got an idea, let's kill all Muslims." Severin denied ever having said such a thing, blasted the Boston Globe for reporting CAIR's charges without contacting him first, but nevertheless expressed "regret" to anyone who was offended by his remarks.

Calling it "a big story about imagined hate speech," Severin said, "If we were to make a tape of it, I could find maybe 1000 recordings ... with my saying the following words: all Muslims are not terrorists, all Muslims are not our enemies. But, so far, all the terrorists killing us are Muslims." He referred to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby's Sunday piece on Arab and Muslim hatred toward the United States, and to a front-page story in today's New York Times headlined "Militants in Europe Openly Call for Jihad and the Rule of Islam."

Severin said that his remark about killing Muslims came in response to a caller who advocated peaceful relations with those elements of the Islamic world that hate the US. "When he said to me, 'I think we should be befriend them,' I said, 'I have a different notion, a different policy. I think we should kill them,'" Severin said today. He added: "I certainly regret any misunderstanding. I certainly regret any discomfort that may have been caused by the misunderstanding of my remarks." But he said that he has been "very clear, very contextual, very consistent" in saying that the US should kill its Muslim enemies - not that it should kill all Muslims.

"My remarks were not taken out of context. Someone made up my remarks," Severin said. He charged that CAIR simply took what a listener had e-mailed to the organization and wrote up a press release demanding that Severin be fired. "Those words were never uttered by me. Not off the air, not on the air, not ever. Never uttered by me," he said, calling CAIR's characterization "100 percent false. A fantasy, a fabrication, totally made up."

Severin also accused the Globe of not checking with him before going to press. (The Globe's story was published on Sunday, not Saturday, as I mistakenly reported earlier today.) He said someone at the Globe told him today that the reporter, Jessica Bennett, had tried to reach him and failed. But Severin said, "I'm in a 24/7 business. Everyone knows how to contact me."

He added: "My statements weren't taken out of context. My statements were made up, and then printed by the Boston Globe. Now, I wish to repeat that I'm not here to offend anyone. [Media Log aside: Hah!] I'm here to provoke thought, I'm here to express opinion."

A few off-the-cuff observations:

- A couple of quibbles aside, I basically believe Severin. I am thoroughly disgusted by his referring to Arabs and Muslims as "towelheads," by his suggestions that the US should nuke its enemies, and by his advocacy of scorched-earth tactics in Iraq. But I listen to him enough to know that it's not credible to imagine he would suddenly call for the deaths of "all" Muslims. He's always been clear that he wants us to kill Islamist terrorists who are trying to kill us. And, of course, we should.

- Severin refers to the Globe as "a ridiculously irresponsible major newspaper" for going to print without first contacting him. But according to Bennett's story, she did contact the station's general manager, Matt Mills, who reportedly declined to comment. She also refers to Severin's remarks as "alleged," which does qualify things a bit. CAIR had put out a press release on the wires the day before the Globe story ran. Assuming that Bennett genuinely attempted to reach Severin and couldn't, her and the paper's choice was either to run with what they had or hold it. Maybe they could have waited another day, but I don't think the decision they made was wrong.

- Severin makes no reference to an e-mail that Mills supposedly sent to CAIR in which he said: "I have spoken to Jay Severin and he knows we take this seriously and do not condone offensive remarks toward any religious groups and he will be apologizing on his show Monday afternoon. He did not intend to offend anyone." Maybe Mills will now claim that he never sent any such e-mail. But assuming that he did, it sounds like Mills was upset with his star talk-show host. Severin should have talked about that rather than blaming everything on CAIR and the Globe.

Maybe he will later this afternoon. Unfortunately, I won't be listening, because I'm on deadline with other matters.

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