The following is a fact-check from the August 22, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:
FMR. REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY)
1) Within a month of Sept, 11, 2001, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said that America was “an accessory to the crime of 9/11.” – TRUE
2) Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said that Osama bin Laden was created in America. – TRUE
3) Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has made statements with the past several months regarding Hamas in which he refused to “distance himself” from the group and/or protected them. – LIKELY FALSE
4) Recently one of the Cordoba House developers said that they would consider taking money from Iran. – FALSE
FMR. REP. LAZIO: Well, first of all I would say, David, there are millions of peace-loving, good Muslims in America. This Imam Rauf is not one of them. He’s not a bridge builder. This is a man, the very same month that people were burying their loved ones that were lost in 9/11, he said that America was an accessory to the crime of 9/11. He said that Osama bin Laden was created in the USA. He refuses, only months ago, to, to distance himself from Hamas, in fact, protecting him–protecting them, and only recently one of the developers said that they would consider taking money from Iran.
1) On Sept. 30th, 2001 an interview with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was shown on the CBS television program 60 Minutes, in which he stated that he believed that America was an accessory to the crime of 9/11.
MR. BRADLEY (voiceover): And throughout the Muslim world, there is also strong opposition to America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, because of its support of Israel and economic sanctions against Iraq.
MR. ABDUL RAUF: It is a reaction against the policies of the U.S. government, politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.
MR. BRADLEY: Are — are — are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?
MR. ABDUL RAUF: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.
MR. BRADLEY: O.K. You say that we’re an accessory?
MR. ABDUL RAUF: Yes.
Therefore, we rate this statement TRUE.
2) A moment later in the same 60 Minutes interview:
MR. BRADLEY: How?
MR. ABDUL RAUF: Because we have been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A. …
The quote ends there, and the Cordoba Initiative has said it was taken out of context, however at least some context was indeed included in the program, as FactCheck.org has noted:
That was a reference to U.S. support for bin Laden when he was fighting Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan, as CBS’ Bradley made clear in the sequence that immediately followed Rauf’s remark:
CBS’ Ed Bradley, Sept. 30, 2001: “Bin Laden and his supporters were, in fact, recruited and paid nearly $4 billion by the CIA and the government of Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to fight with the Mujahedeen rebels against the former Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan. After the Soviets pulled out, the Saudis, our best friends in the Arab world, our staunchest ally during the Gulf War, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the newly formed Taliban regime until 1999.”
While it is impossible to know exactly whether or not Fmr. Rep. Lazio believes Mr. Abdul Rauf was speaking literally, we’ll let the above context stand as it is. Regardless, the statement is TRUE.
3) During a June 18th ABC radio interview, in response to the question “Do you believe that the State Department is correct in designating Hamas as a terrorist organization?” – here is the statement Mr. Abdul Rauf made that started this particular controversy, which The New York Times characterizes as being part of “a long conversation with many interruptions” (and also via FactCheck.org):
“Well, I’m not a politician. … The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. … I am a bridge builder. My work is … I do not want to be placed nor will I accept a position where I am the target of one side or another. My attempt is to see a peace in Israel. … Targeting of civilians is wrong. It’s a sin in our religion, whoever does it. … I am a supporter of the State of Israel.”
Fmr. Rep. Lazio said that Mr. Abdul Rauf “refuses, only months ago, to, to distance himself from Hamas, in fact, protecting him–protecting them” and in our judgment that is not an accurate summary of Mr. Abdul Rauf’s comments. This is of course a classic example of journo-political gamesmanship, where someone declining to answer a question is used to imply their opinion on that question. While anyone reading the above remarks could certainly choose to believe that it was a statement of support for Hamas, we see it simply as a more nuanced “I am not going to comment about that” To say that Mr. Abdul Rauf refused to distance himself from Hamas, or that he was protecting them, is LIKELY FALSE. If someone does not answer the question “Do the believe the sky is blue?” that does not mean they believe the sky is not blue, or that it is some other color.
4) Regarding the issue of money from Iran for the Park51 project, this is another even more clear example of “no comment” being used to assume a person’s opinion. Here is what the spokesman for the Park51 developers, Oz Sultan, said to ABC News:
“We’ll look at all available options within the United States to start. We’re hoping to fund this predominately from domestic donors. That can be everything from institutions all the way down to personal [contributors,]” said Sultan.
When asked if they would then turn to foreign donors, Sultan replied, “I can’t comment on that.”
Pressed on whether the developers were willilng rule out accepting donations from the governments of Saudi Arabia or Iran, he repeated, “I can’t comment on that.”
While this is clearly not a “No” to the question, that does not mean Fmr. Rep. Lazio is accurate when saying they are considering taking money from Iran. That is of course unless Fmr. Rep. Lazio is a psychic and knows exactly what they are indeed thinking, which we are going to presume he does not. Therefore, technically his statement is FALSE, as the phrase “we are considering taking money from Iran” or it’s equivalent was not said. Mr. Sultan simply refused to answer the question, and while people can read into that whatever they wish, it is worth noting that on Aug. 26, in an interview with CBS News, Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal did answer the question:
“We will not take money from Iran. We will not take money from Hamas,”
Incidentally it is also worth noting that ABC News, in its article summary of Mr. Sultan’s statement of “I can’t comment on that” characterized it as “refusing to rule out” taking money from Iran. We believe that to be an inaccurate summary of his statement, and most likely that kind of headlining contributed to the controversy.
We would very much recommend reading in their entirety, both this New York Times article and this FactCheck.org piece regarding these statements and many others referring to the “Ground Zero Mosque” (both were used as references for this check). Also as an editors note, we have used the term “Ground Zero Mosque” because it is the phrase which is now most commonly associated with this particular story, but we agree with PolitiFact that the term itself is likely inaccurate. We recommend reading their judgment on the term here, and also their checks of the statements “There is already a mosque four blocks away” (Michael Bloomberg, TRUE) and “This is not a mosque. It’s a cultural center that has a prayer area.” (Al Hunt, FALSE).
This fact-check took a combined 2.5 hours.