CNN’s Erin Burnett interviewed former first lady Laura Bush about the Women’s Initiative program Bush heads with her husband, former president George W. Bush, on Monday, March 11. During the interview, Burnett threw a question out to Bush that was so shocking, had Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck asked an analogous question, there might actually have been rioting in the streets.
Burnett seemed to be strongly implying to Bush that Americans should reward and honor someone who bravely protested their own mistreatment even if that person (repeatedly) cheered the brutal murders of Americans and Israelis. To withhold an Arab’s reward on the basis of terrorism-glorification is merely American chauvinism, was Burnett’s suggestion.
The CNN host appeared to be trying to get Bush to see that if the U.S. wants to see Egypt and other countries in the Middle East prosper, we cannot hold their heroes to western ethical standards.
Bush was a guest on “OutFront,” Burnett’s CNN show. “Designed to showcase Erin’s unique style – casual, smart, and confident,” is how CNN describes the show. Two out of three ain’t bad.
The Women’s Initiative Fellowship Project is a part of the George W. Bush Institute. The WIF project helps women in the Middle East develop the necessary skills to become effective leaders and build a stronger civil society. The Fellows study leadership skills, exchange expertise, and learn to advocate for social stability. On Friday, March 8, International Women’s Day, Bush celebrated the graduation of WIFP’s first class of 14 Egyptian Fellows, and welcomed the incoming 19 Fellows of the 2013 class.
It was ostensibly to talk about this initiative that Burnett invited Bush to appear on “OutFront.”
Just prior to the terrorism glorification exchange, Burnett asked Bush why her husband, George W. Bush, is a partner in the initiative.
Mrs. Bush explained that he, like “all Americans, if we want peace in the world, and to have peace in our own country, we have to help other countries,” and she said that, “we look at countries where women are marginalized and we nearly always see a failing country.”
“It’s important, when you look around the world, to make sure that men and women can help their countries prosper in every way,” is how Bush expressed her own view. Without skipping a beat, Burnett grabbed the ball with a point she apparently thought would be supported by what Mrs. Bush had just said. Burnett said,
There’s an Egyptian woman, Samira Ibrahim, and she’s done a lot of things, some courageous things, she’s also been criticized for sending tweets that are anti-Semitic, anti-American, does the U.S. need to accept that? When you want to make change, you have to support people who do that, financially, in terms of awards, in terms of all these things – because it pays off in the end? Is that a trade-off we have to make?
Laura Bush, gave a startled “No, I don’t think so,” and went on to discuss how important it is for Americans to support women in every way they can, and how easy it is for WIFP to recruit American women who are eager to be mentors to the Egyptian Fellows because American women are interested in women from all over the world and want to support them.
Samira Ibrahim was criticized – legitimately – as reported here at The Jewish Press, for sending a series of terrorism-glorification tweets within the last year, including ones expressing: joy that 5 Israelis were murdered by Hezbollah terrorists in Bulgaria; hope that more Americans will burn every year on 9/11; and support for an observation that Adolf Hitler accurately noted that at the root of all evil you can find the hand of a Jew.
When enough people made noise about the hatred Ibrahim had expressed, the State Department ultimately called off – temporarily it wrote – having First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry honor her at an event, also on International Women’s Day, to receive the Secretary of State’s Women of Courage Award.
The award presentation was withheld so that the state department could investigate Ibrahim’s claims that her twitter account had been hacked and she was not responsible for any of the hate-filled tweets. The state department cautiously but publicly supported that version of events.
Ibrahim later tweeted that she refused to back down to the “Zionist lobby” and apologize for her tweets, even though the state department was trying to get her to do so. Presumably that will end the expenditure of additional American taxpayers funds to exonerate Ibrahim. And despite the best efforts of CNN’s Burnett to recruit Laura Bash to the “Save Samira” campaign, it is unlikely Ibrahim will ever receive any courage awards from the U.S. government.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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