Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Pamela Geller, founder, editor and publisher of the popular and award-winning weblog AtlasShrugs.com. She has won acclaim for her interviews with internationally renowned figures, including John Bolton, Geert Wilders, Bat Ye’or, Natan Sharansky, and many others, and has broken numerous important stories — notably the questionable sources of some of the financing of the Obama campaign. Her op-eds have been published in The Washington Times, The American Thinker, Israel National News, Frontpage Magazine, World Net Daily, and New Media Journal, among other publications. She is the co-author (with Robert Spencer) of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (forward by Ambassador John Bolton) — just released on July 27.
FP: Pamela Geller, welcome back to Frontpage interview.
Geller: Thanks, Jamie.
FP: Congratulations on the victory you just achieved in terms of the bus campaign your group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) is seeking to conduct in New York City to expose the Ground Zero mega-mosque for what it really is. Tell us about your victory.
Geller: Jamie, last Friday, my organization the Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI), my colleague Robert Spencer and I filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for refusing my SIOA “Preservation of Ground Zero” bus campaign. Unbelievably, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) refused the campaign because it contained “911 images” and associated the Ground Zero mega-mosque with 9⁄11 – even though mosque leaders have been associating the mosque with 9⁄11 every chance they can get.
The full text of our complaint is here.
But on Monday, the MTA has recognized the justice of our position in our lawsuit, and agreed to run our ad as originally submitted.
FP: What is the significance of this victory?
Geller: This is a great victory for freedom of speech, and we are grateful to our attorneys David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise for mounting such an effective defense against politically correct censorship.
Glazov: Give us some background and details. How did all this unfold?
Geller: Jamie, last month, I signed a contract with CBS Outdoor to run a “Preservation of Ground Zero” bus ad campaign. The campaign was paid for in full.
Here is the ad I submitted:
The ad was refused. When I asked on what grounds, CBS Outdoor told me that the city said that “images of 9⁄11 were not allowed.”
FP: How did you react to that?
Geller: I was floored. I said, “It is American history. How can it be banned? What about Pearl Harbor? Is that censored too? On what grounds are 9⁄11 images banned? It is unconscionable.”
The CBS Outdoor representative told me: “You can’t run the plane.”
I asked CBS/MTA to provide me with the guidelines for these seventh-century censorship restrictions. They never did. And so, with the help of my art director, the talented and singular Big Fur Hat, I removed the plane and submitted a new ad with the following note:
Will, Still waiting for the MTA guidelines. Please respond to my previous queries. Here is the new art …… please know that I strenuously object to you changing my artwork and my message in the process. It’s American history. I am floored. However, since you and/or the MTA are unwilling to change your position, I have no choice but to run the advertisement with your edits.
CBS refused this ad as well. They said I had to remove the smoke.
FP: The smoke?
Geller: Yes, the smoke. I know it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. When I spoke to CBS’s representative concerning the second rejection of my Ground Zero bus ad, he said that the MTA “doesn’t want to associate the new building” – that is, the Islamic supremacist Ground Zero mega-mosque – “with Ground Zero.” He added that the showing of the burning buildings “hurts people.”
FP: How did you answer that?
Geller: I said: “Hurts people? I find bus ads proselytizing for Islam hurts apostates. Are you going to take those bus ads down? Are you saying images of the largest attack on American soil are censored? Are Pearl Harbor images censored? Gettysburg, too?”
Then the conversation got really bizarre. The CBS Outdoor rep told me: “The people behind the new building” – again, that’s the mega-mosque – “say it has nothing to do with Ground Zero.”
FP: That’s interesting. Nothing to do with Ground Zero? I wonder how that fits with Daisy Khan, wife of the Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, saying:
“I think the building came to us, which goes to show that there is a symbolism there, and that there’s a divine hand in it. That it’s so close to the tragedy, that its close proximity is very symbolic for the fact that we really want to reverse what happened on 9⁄11.”
Geller: That’s right, Jamie. The mosque organizers themselves have linked the building to 9⁄11, yet the MTA forbade FDI to make the same link. So I said to the CBS rep: “So what? That’s what they say. Others think differently. You are telling me they have said it has nothing to do with Ground Zero. But they are on record repeatedly as saying they want it there for Ground Zero ‘healing’ and ‘outreach.’” And I added: “Who cares what they say? What do they (the Ground Zero mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan) have to do with running my ad? They dictate what can and cannot run?”
He said, “It’s controversial.”
I said, “How? Where are the guidelines that point to this, where are the guidelines that I have been asking for over a month? Give me the guidelines and I will adhere to them.”
But no guidelines were coming. He said: “I have been having a hard time getting the guidelines out of the MTA.”
I said, “A hard time? Aren’t they written somewhere or posted somewhere? What are they? And what’s controversial? The ad merely says, ‘Why there?’”
He said, “You are implying –”
I said, “Implying what? You are now going to tell me what I am thinking? Who is making these decisions? Who at the MTA or CBS is making these decisions? The MTA is a government agency – and you can’t provide me with guidelines but I am being held hostage to the capricious whim of some flak at the MTA? I am an advertiser. I bought and paid for an ad a month ago and you cannot point me to any substance or set of rules for the basis of ad rejection. I took out the plane as requested – now what’s the problem?”
The CBS Outdoor representative said, “The flames.” He said he was “meeting obstacles” but he was “trying to help me.” He said, “Get me an ad asap without smoke, without any flames – just the towers.”
So I told him I would create another ad with just the towers. He said, “Before you do that, let me run down the hall and ask if that’s okay” – with the Vice President of the company.
Apparently, it was. So I had the smoke removed and submitted this ad:
But then CBS, on behalf of the MTA, said, “Remove the plane.”
And so I submitted another planeless ad, stating emphatically:
“I object to this censorship, which is effectively editing the viewpoint I am attempting to express in my message, but if this is the only choice you are giving me, then run the ad without the plane. It’s a plane in the sky, far removed. Planes do fly in the sky.”
FP: Wow, let me guess, you filed suit somewhere around this point, right?
Geller: You’ve got that right, Jamie. Last Friday, my legal team of David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise filed suit on our behalf against New York City. The complaint alleged violation of FDI’s, Robert Spencer’s and my free speech rights. It charged that the MTA had decided to accept the claim of the pro-Sharia Ground Zero Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, that their mega-mosque had nothing to do with marking the jihadist “victory” of September 11, 2001. In other words, the MTA was now deciding which viewpoints were politically correct enough to appear on its buses.
I think David Yerushalmi explained the significance of the suit very ably when he said:
“What makes this jihad against free speech so egregious is that the MTA has run any number of controversial religious and political ads without batting an eyelid. But as soon as the Shariah-faithful cowed Mayor Bloomberg and the MTA into dhimmi-like submission, the First Amendment to the Constitution gave way to Shariah’s blasphemy laws. How long before the Mayor’s office begins issuing fatwas against those who dare counter the ‘noble and peaceful outreach’ narrative?”
He also added:
“Mr. Mayor and your colleagues at the MTA and the Landmark Commission: New Yorkers will not forget 9-11 and we will not be cowed into submission or silence. You might not want to hear our voices, but the federal courts will require you to listen. You claim the mantle of the Constitution as a basis for supporting a Shariah-Islamist mosque at Ground Zero, yet the MTA—a government agency of the City—cavalierly denies ‘infidels’ freedom of speech. Enough is enough.”
FP: What about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg? What has been his position in all this?
Geller: Jamie, it seems to me that Bloomberg invokes certain freedoms only when they serve his 2012 agenda – and freedom of speech is not high on his list. Doing away with term limits wasn’t enough (which is why we are still suffering under his no-salt, no-transfat regime). He is now widening his ayatollah-like power grab to imposing blasphemy laws (Islamic sharia laws) on the secular marketplace. Bloomberg’s frenzied Ground Zero mosque push may have inspired Al-Azhar clerics to oppose the Ground Zero Mosque, calling it a “a zionist plot.”
FP: Pamela Geller, we are out of time. Congratulations on your victory – which is our victory, or should I say, the victory of those who care about freedom. What a disgrace it is that it has to take courageous private citizens like you to stand up for liberty in this country – while so many in positions of power sit around doing nothing and fretting over bruising the sensitivities of those who wish to do us harm and are doing us harm. You have many more battles to fight. Thank you for fighting them and we’ll behind you every step of the way.