Harry Reid’s “Ground Zero Mosque” Fail

Majority leader cowers under pressure from GOP rival.

By Jamilah King Aug 16, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks that organizers for a Muslim community center in New York should be free to build a mosque wherever they choose. But at the moment, Ground Zero’s the wrong place to do it.

From Talking Points Memo:

"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else," said a statement from Reid spokesman Jim Manley. "If the Republicans are being sincere, they would help us pass this long overdue bill to help the first responders whose health and livelihoods have been devastated because of their bravery on 911, rather than continuing to block this much-needed legislation."

Reid may have been bullied into taking the position after his GOP opponent in his home state of Nevada, Sharron Angle, attacked President Obama’s endorsement of the mosque–and challenged Reid to speak up. According to TPM, Angle said the following:

"As the Majority Leader, Harry Reid is usually President Obama’s mouthpiece in the U.S. Senate, and yet he remains silent on this issue. Reid has a responsibility to stand up and say no to the mosque at Ground Zero or once again side with President Obama—this time against the families of 9/11 victims. America is waiting."

Over the weekend, President Obama made a strong statement in favor of the mosque being built at the proposed site.

"As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he told reporters on Saturday. "And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."

A firestorm of controversy ensued, and as Julianne Hing wrote earlier today, Obama has since backed away from at least some of his original statement.

As Michelle Chen has blogged, perhaps the most striking thing about the whole ugly controversy is the false "Ground Zero mosque’ moniker. It’s a prime example of how the right uses language to frame a political debate in their favor. The mosque is, in fact, a multipurpose community center that contains a room for prayer–one that’s blocks away from Ground Zero. So how’d it become a "Ground Zero mosque"? Again, Talking Points Memo has a breakdown:

By all accounts, the term first appeared in the media on, where else, Fox News: a December 21, 2009 segment, guest-hosted by conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, was called "Controversy Surrounds Ground Zero Mosque/Cultural Center."

From there, though, the term experienced nothing like the meteoric rise of the term "Death Panel." Months later, the Associated Press began tagging their items with the term, but it didn’t appear in the media coverage of the issue again until May. Specifically, it came up on May 16, in a New York Post piece titled "Short on Allah Dollars; Ground Zero Mosque Team Lacking Funds Amid Bookkeeping Chaos.

Read the rest here.