The Cambridge City Council vs Breitbart.com
The Cambridge City Council has formally chastized the conservative news site Breitbart.com after the publication of a story that took several shots at Councilor Nadeem Mazen.
The piece, by Iyla Feoktistov of Americans for Peace and Tolerance and Sam Westrop of the Gatestone Institute, links Mazen’s very liberal politics with his role in the Greater Boston Muslim community—two things Mazen has not been shy about—as if the councilor is part of some kind of subversive plot to bring down the Most Progressive City in America.
The authors, in their not-so-subtly titled piece “Hamas On The Charles,” conclude Mazen is not a “moderate Muslim” or an appropriate representation of Cambridge because of his affiliation with the controversial Council on American Islamic Relations and a single vote of his against the Cambridge police budget.
In response to the piece, the council unanimously approved a resolution authored by Councilor Dennis Carlone last week that condemned Breitbart for the publication of the story. The resolution was not one of the items on the agenda discussed by councilors at the time of the vote. The resolution does not have any binding legal authority.
Breitbart.com has a history of outrageous and sensationalized journalism designed for shock value but which has no proven basis in truth whatsoever;
The council will now send an engrossed copy of the resolution to Breitbart.
According to current councilors, this is the first time the council has formally scolded a media organization. When asked about the appropriateness of a government body formally rebuking a news organization, Carlone and Mazen questioned whether or not Breitbart.com actually fits that description.
“I think you’re raising this group and saying it’s equal to Boston magazine or the Globe or the Times. It’s not. That’s the difference,” said Carlone.
Mazen called the article “hate speech” and “libelous” and said he was considering his legal options, including filing a libel suit against the authors and Breitbart.com.
“It’s simply hogwash and hate speech,” said Mazen.
Mazen is convinced he has a strong case against Breitbart, but is concerned that a legal case would backfire and give them the opportunity to raise money off a court battle.
“Muslims have slinked away from this in the past with hopes this will go away and it hasn’t. I think it’s high time we, not just as Muslims but as people of conscience, take every opportunity to speak back against this,” said Mazen.
Carlone conceded the resolution was atypical even for the activism-minded Cambridge City Council.
“I think it’s unusual, but also Cambridge is an unusual place where there’s a lot of respect for ethnicity and religion, and to take attack someone primarily based on who they were brought up to worship and their culture is disgusting,” said Carlone.
Longtime media observer Dan Kennedy said he was unaware of a city council in the region ever formally condemning a news organization.
“I can’t remember an occasion that would lead to a municipal body having to do such a thing,” said Kennedy in an email.
Westrop responded on behalf of himself and Feoktistov with the following emailed statement:
CAIR has a long history of threatening its critics with legal action. It relies on intimidation and censorship to silence those who examine its extremist and bigoted ideas. As for its Massachusetts director, Nadeem Mazen, it won’t help his case that everything we have written is well-documented and irrefutably true.
It is certainly not just us who think Mazen’s group is a problem. The federal government has linked them to terror financing, the Anti-Defamation League believes they are a prominent anti-Semitic group, and, in 2014, the United Arab Emirates, a pious Muslim state, actually designated CAIR as a terrorist organization.
Nadeem Mazen is a public official, and so there is a clear public interest in examining the ideas that he advocates and the groups with which he is involved.
It worries us and our Muslim allies that an elected official of Cambridge is a director of a such a rabidly bigoted organization. It worries us that Nadeem Mazen has attacked moderate Muslims as ‘imperialist’ agents. And it worries us that Mazen and CAIR are attempting to stop the government’s Countering Violent Extremism program in a city that knows the bloody effect of violent extremism all too well.
CAIR does not represent American Islam. It is a fringe group with fringe ideas. Given its extremist links, we call on Nadeem Mazen to resign from CAIR and instead work with moderate Muslims to fight the intolerable effects of radical Islamism.
Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon did not respond to multiple requests from Boston for comment.