When news surfaced that radical UK cleric Anjem Choudary was going to stage a Shariah4America rally at the White House on Thursday, it's fair to say many expected some explosive video to surface. Especially considering counter protesters planned rallies, too. Choudary canceled his rally. The counter protesters did not. At least one shocking video still surfaced.
But that video, posted by liberal-leaning Talking Points Memo (TPM), blames the actions in the video on conservative Frank Gaffney, a frequent commenter on Muslim issues and American security. That connection, Gaffney's organization says, is a "total lie."
First the video, from TPM's website, which author Ryan Reilly describes as a lone praying Muslim being "surrounded by a large group of protesters who shouted an array of insults at him: mocking him for drinking Starbucks coffee, telling him to go back to his country, and even throwing tiny crosses at his feet as he prayed."
Reilly captured the video himself, and it does show counter protesters disgustingly mocking and taunting the Muslim man:
According to Reilly, the Muslim man is a White House regular: "A police officer on the scene told me the man showed up to pray at the White House every couple days."
Reilly goes on to associate the taunters with conservative Frank Gaffney from the Center for Security Policy. Twice Reilly links the harassers to Gaffney and his ilk, and even uses "Frank Gaffney" as a tag for the post.
But were the people shown actually harassing the Muslim man really with Gaffney?
"Absolutely not," Center for Security Policy Communications Director Dave Reaboi tells The Blaze. “This is a complete misrepresentation.”
Reaboi doesn't deny that he, Gaffney, and the center were at the White House. But, he adds, they weren't there for a rally. Rather, they held a press conference regarding the conflict between Shariah law and the Constitution -- it didn't have a religious or "Jesus" element, like the incident in the video. Further supporting that claim: Reaboi says he's Jewish.
In fact, the group says it secured a permit to be on White House grounds and had the Park Service specifically change the permit application to note the group was having a press conference, not a rally.
Indeed, a story on Foxnews.com from yesterday notes that the center was slated to hold a "counter press conference" that was even set to feature a speaker who is a non-radical Muslim. Multiple press releases sent out before the event also confirm it was a non-religious event. It seems natural, then, for the center to defend itself on the grounds that the abusers were religious in nature while its press conference was not.
According to Reaboi, the group seen in the video was actually part of the mob accompanying Florida's burn-a-Koran pastor Terry Jones. Reaboi says he knows what Jones's group looks like because it tried to co-opt the center's press conference, with Jones himself at one point pulling out a bullhorn, standing on a nearby bench, and "treating us like we were his assembled crowd."
They weren't. And they made that clear.
“No, he’s not with us and he doesn’t have a permit,” Reaboi recalls telling the Park Service, who then relocated Jones and his group about a half a block away. Where's that, you might ask?
“Exactly the same spot where the incident with the Muslim man occurred," Reaboi says. He knows that, he explains, because he happened to see the Muslim man praying while he (Reaboi) was leaving the press conference, which ended about 40 minutes earlier. And while he didn't see the actual incident occur, he recognizes some people in the video as the individuals who tried to crash the center's press conference.
According to Reaboi, TPM did not try and contact Gaffney before linking him to the incident -- an incident he calls "absolutely disgusting."
The Blaze asked Reilly for comment and received an e-mail response from TPM's managing editor, David Kurtz. "We stand behind our report," he writes. "Our reporter personally observed numerous participants from the Gaffney-organized rally, including someone who spoke at that rally and who appears in the video we posted, becoming involved in the incident as the Gaffney rally broke up."
We asked Reaboi to respond. He watched the video three times during our conversation and on the third time identified one sanctioned speaker in TPM's video: Beverly Perlson of Band of Mothers. She's seen holding up a sign in the background saying "Thank You Troops for Keeping Us Safe Since 9/11."
But despite Perlson's appearance, Reaboi stands by his claims.
"She clearly did not become involved in the incident," he says. "You can see six or seven people doing things or saying things and becoming outrageous and she is not one of them. I don't see any of our speakers taking part in any harassment."
Perlson denies the charges, too. According to a statement provided to The Blaze, she was in the area trying to draw attention to her cause.
"I want my sign to remind the American people, whenever I can get it out there, to support our troops wherever they are," she says. "When I see a camera, I try to get our message across and get our sign seen.”
As for TPM portraying Gaffney -- a well-respected conservative -- as the instigator of Muslim hate at a mixed event, Reaboi thinks that's unfair.
And that may be a fair assessment. Someone holding a support-our-troops sign in the background during a controversial incident doesn't exactly mimic Saul holding the coats of Stephen's stoners.
As for the rest of those featured in the video, couldn't it be that some people were roving the area and might have meandered through the outdoor press conference, Jones's gathering, and the incident?
"Of course," Reaboi says. But, he adds, that doesn't mean those people's actions can be directly linked to Gaffney and his "followers." Especially considering there were other groups, such as Jones's, present.
"There were many groups there protesting," Reaboi recalls, noting that a couple Mexican groups showed up to coincide with the state visit from Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "To directly connect us to anything that went on is off the wall."