Presidential Ignorance and Denial
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
It is certainly unacceptable when a television personality does not understand that all citizens in the United States enjoy the freedom to exercise their religion as long as it does not interfere with someone else’s right to do so as well. Clearly, Jeanine Pirro does not understand that Representative Ilan Omar, despite the fact that she has espoused anti-Semitic views, is entitled as a citizen of the United States to practice her Muslim faith by wearing a hijab. As any Sikh can wear a turban or any Jew can where a kippah, Omar cannot be denied her right to wear a hijab.
Fox News was absolutely correct in removing Pirro from the air. By wearing a hijab Omar was practicing her religion not giving priority to Sharia law over the U.S. Constitution. While Fox may also have had economic reasons and not necessarily only First Amendment considerations for removing Pirro—they were losing large corporate advertisers by keeping her on television—the network nevertheless did the right thing.
The fact that President Trump called upon Fox to reinstate Pirro—as he did numerous times in his barrage of tweets on Sunday—demonstrates once again that the President has no understanding of the Constitution or respect for American law. Islamophobia was condemned by Fox and yet the President urged his friends at Fox News to ignore Pirro’s remarks. He further concocted a story that blamed the Radical Left Democrats and the fake media for baring responsibility for removing Judge Pirro from the air. Missing in the public criticism of Jeanne Pirro as well, was the absence or outrage from the clergy of other faiths to Pirro’s blatant disregard of all Americans’ right to practice their religion.
In addition, on Friday the President’s remarks after the tragic shooting and murders of Muslims at prayer in the two mosques in New Zealand focused only on expressions of sympathy for the families of the dead and wounded, as well as solidarity with the people of New Zealand. While the killer made sure that his White Supremacist views were publicized on social media, as had been the case after Charlottesville and Pittsburgh, once again President Trump could not bring himself to address the ideological basis behind all these attacks.
These two episodes over a matter of days underscore two facts. There is a potential danger to the political process that is represented by certain members of the far left. These proponents are mainly visible among some of the newly elected Members of the House, many of whom will either moderate their views or be marginalized. On the other hand, there is a far more serious immediate danger on the right. America has a President who disobeys and disregards the law; articulates racist positions; and encourages and supports White supremacist views.