Former President George W. Bush came under attack Monday from Fox News, which accused him of having ties to the Islamic world and of perhaps being a secret Muslim. While the former president has stayed out of the limelight since leaving office, critics contend that his silence only proves their theories correct.
The fervor began when Fox’s morning show “Fox and Friends” reported that Bush’s family had close ties to the Islamic world, particularly with Saudi Arabia.
“I just learned that, get this, George Bush senior actually led a whole bunch of countries to war to protect Saudi Arabia when he was president. Of course the Bushes have always been close to big oil,” Fox Newsmodel Gretchen Carlson reported Monday. “Was the young George W. Bush indoctrinated into the Islamic faith during that time? Some people are asking this question. By ‘some people’ I mean the people on this show, our scriptwriters and the folks who issue our talking points each morning.”
Carlson’s co-host Steve Doocy joined in the echo chamber, asserting that this information “raises questions” about where the younger Bush’s loyalties lie.
“The younger President Bush inflamed the Islamic world by invading Iraq on false pretenses. Our own intelligence agencies said this made us less safe and served as a rallying cry for Al Qaeda and other extremists,” Doocy said. “Did George W. Bush do this to help out Al Qaeda? Does George W. Bush hate America? Does he want to install a Muslim caliphate here in the U.S.? Some say the former president has some explaining to do.”
Fox then ran a series of pictures showing the Bush family with several Islamic leaders, including one of Bush participating in a traditional Saudi dance, arm in arm with Saudi leaders and holding a sword. Other pictures showed Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah holding hands and exchanging kisses.
“You know, in Saudi Arabia they cut the heads off of infidels and criminals and there was President Bush holding a sword. Was President Bush there to cut someone’s head off? Did he cut off someone’s head while in Saudi Arabia to appease the Saudi clerics and prove he was one of them?” Doocy asked. “I realize this is conjecture, projection and gossip but what else would you expect on this network?”
Co-host Brian Kilmeade said he found an internet post claiming Bush had attended an Islamic school, which he immediately assumed to be accurate.
“I saw something on the internet and it fits with the network’s talking points for the day, so I thought we’d just run it on the air without trying to verify whether it’s true or not,” Kilmeade said. “Let the real news networks be bothered with verifying their information. It’s not up to us to tell the truth, it’s up to other people to catch us lying so we can complain about them attacking us. I love playing the victim, it requires almost no thinking.”
The network’s coverage of this continued during its primetime lineup. Glenn Beck noted that he had previously said President Barack Obama was “sending messages” about his faith by supporting a proposed Muslim community center four blocks from the former World Trade Center.
Beck had also taken issue with Obama’s reference to the U.S. being “a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers” in his inaugural address. Beck attacked the president for listing the world’s religions in that particular order and claimed it was the first time a president had said such a thing.
On Monday, Beck said he decided to do some actual research for the first time in his life and discovered that Obama wasn’t the first president to say positive things about Islam, which caused him to do an entire show focusing on Bush and his alleged Muslim ties.
“I don’t have any real proof, all I have is insinuation and innuendo and those are good enough for the Fox network. All I have to do is say ‘is President Bush a secret Muslim?’ It turns my accusation into a question. If anyone challenges me, I just say ‘hey, I’m just asking questions’ and I never have to have any real evidence,” Beck said. “It’s a way of getting a point across without ever having to back it up with facts. Is George W. Bush a secret Muslim? Does he want to destroy America? Hey, I’m just asking questions.”
Beck listed several cases where then-President Bush made positive statements about Islam and he pointed out that Bush held Muslim events in the White House and marked the passage of Ramadan. In November, 2003 Bush said all religions “whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God.” In October, 2007, Bush talked to the Al Aribiya network about hosting an Islamic Iftaar dinner.
“The reason I do this is I want people to understand about my country. In other words, I hope this message gets out of America. I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you’re a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you’re equally American,” Bush told the network.
A spokesman said Bush would not comment on the issue. Republican lawmakers were reluctant to speak publicly on this subject, privately acknowledging that they didn’t want to show disrespect to the former president nor run afoul of their Fox News overlords.
“The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “Obviously I know that President Bush is and was a Christian, just like I know that President Obama is a Christian, but you’re not going to get me to state that unequivocally. I don’t want to offend the crazies in my party who say he isn’t. I’m choosing political expediency and cowardice instead of honor and integrity.”
Roger Ailes, Fox News Channel president, defended the network’s creation of this issue. He predicted the other networks would eventually start covering this subject while pretending that Fox was a legitimate news organization, rather than exposing its lack of credibility.
“Our network does this all the time. We report bogus information, make things up and pretend it’s news. Our people go on the air and say things like ‘people are talking about’ or ‘some say’ this is an issue,” Ailes said. “Sometimes they just ask a bunch of inane questions like ‘does so and so hate America’ and ‘some say’ he does. It’s a lot easier to attack your opponents if you’re never bogged down by the truth.”
Ailes said the network would next look into whether Bush was really born in this country, on the grounds that “some people” were talking about it.