John David Weissinger made multiple violent threats toward San Diego and Washington offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in February 2015, including profane threats and vows to kill Muslims. According to Vox, a woman testified at his trial that “Weissinger called the local CAIR office and left a voicemail threatening to shoot her and her colleagues.”
Judge Timothy Walsh said of his comments, “It’s hateful, it’s caustic, it’s inflammatory, it’s dangerous, it’s illegal, it’s inexcusable and it cannot be tolerated.” Weissinger pleaded guilty to making a criminal threat with hate crime allegation and was just sentenced to a year in jail and five years of probation.
Weissinger’s defense attorney Michael Malowney, however, had an interesting defense to present on his behalf. He claimed his client’s threats were due to both intoxication and “a week of watching Fox News, over and over.”
There’s no doubt that Malowney’s defense holds no water, and it’s ridiculous to suggest that Weissinger was driven to make death threats due to a nefarious news network. Yet this does indicate that the amount of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric Fox News propagates is influential in shifting public perception of Muslims.
Particularly after terrorist attacks, Fox News consistently delivers the message that Muslims are dangerous and inherently threatening the American way of life. The network has supported Donald Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigration, and made comments such as “If you study the history of Islam… You solve [problems] with a bullet to the head. It’s the only thing these people understand.”
Fox News may not be to blame for Weissinger’s criminal threats, but it certainly contributes to fueling Islamophobic sentiments.
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