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July 29, 2013 12:44 PM About That “Uncomfortable” Fox Interview

By Ed Kilgore

You have probably heard about this special moment on Fox.com by now:

It’s worth examining before it becomes merely legendary. Here’s a quick summary from Slate’s Daniel Politi:

It’s got plenty of competition but this may just be the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News. At least in recent memory. Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her FoxNews.com show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”
But Green just wouldn’t let it go: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Aslan then starts talking to Green slowly, as if she were a child: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” But Green insisted, accusing him of failing to “disclose” that he’s a Muslim and at one point asking him about a stupefying claim on whether a Muslim writing a book on Jesus isn’t sort of like a Democrat writing a book on former president Ronald Reagan.

The subsequent barrage of derision was so bad that Dr. Zoom of Wonkette felt compelled to say:

We’d bet that Lauren Green is not actually as heroically stupid as she appears to be here, asking again and again (ThinkProgress counted nine times in the full 10-minute interview) just why on earth a Muslim person would go and write a book about “the founder of Christianity.”

A slightly more robust defense of Green came from Eddie Scarry of Glenn Beck’s site The Blaze, who calls the interview “awkward:”

[A] 2011 StarTribune interview with Green helps shed some light on perhaps why Green was so invested in Aslan’s motivation in writing the book. From the interview (emphasis ours):
“Q You’ve covered the arts, did the news updates for “Fox & Friends” and since 2007 have been the religion correspondent?
“A This is the best job ever for me. Really allows me to cover one of my greatest passions, which is looking inside the human soul and how that relates to news. Sometimes it can get frustrating because I know how deeply belief systems are embedded in every human being. It’s really fascinating.”
And so, while the interview was seen by some as an attack on Aslan by Green, it’s possible she was simply asking if Aslan’s faith — a deeply personal matter for most — may have colored his work. He got to answer and defend his work. Is that so unfair?

Nice try, but it would probably be better for Green if she were perceived as a hackish news reader who was pursuing a corporate line of Islamophobia, than some sort of expert on religion who doesn’t seem to be aware of either Islamic or scholarly perspectives on Jesus Christ. Green should not suffer for the sins of an entire network, but henceforth she might want to give the subject of religion a wide berth.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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