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Before Right-Wing Blogger Outrage, Conservatives Supported Cordoba House

The President’s remarks on the Cordoba House project, now placed in their full context to mean a support of the right for any religious group to worship freely, consistent with local laws and zoning ordinances, has touched off one of these “get us through the summer” debates in the political realm (see Marcy on this). But it’s worth pointing to Justin Elliott’s chronicle of the history of the Cordoba House controversy, which shows that initially, even the loudest organs in the conservative noise machine supported the project:

Dec. 21, 2009: Conservative media personality Laura Ingraham interviews Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox. In hindsight, the segment is remarkable for its cordiality. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” Ingraham says of the Cordoba project, adding at the end of the interview, “I like what you’re trying to do.” This segment also includes onscreen the first use that we’ve seen of the misnomer “ground zero mosque.”) After the segment — and despite the front-page Times story — there were no news articles on the mosque for five and a half months, according to a search of the Nexis newspaper archive.

In the segment, Daisy Khan describes the Islamic Center as “a blow to the extremists” and says she and moderate Muslims like her are fed up with being defined by the actions of a few who have perverted Islam for their own ends.

It wasn’t until five months later, when the New York community board voted unanimously to approve the project, that Pam Geller and the New York Post basically began the crusade to demonize Cordoba House. So the rantings of a woman who posited that Barack Obama was Malcolm X’s love child has driven this story to the top of the national discussion.

And because of the effective play to the lizard brains of conservative bigots, that crusade has succeeded, even as the project is slated to go forward. But it’s worth remembering the relative lack of attention to Cordoba House until a madwoman started braying about it. This, of course, shows the ease with which right-wing memes can bubble up from the deepest fringes of their movement.

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David Dayen

David Dayen