MIKE BARNICLE: Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where, not yet nailed down, but at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.
DONNY DEUTSCH: I was thinking the same thing, yeah.
If you’re thinking about prosecuting someone for non-violent speech because of the violent reaction of others, then you might be an idiot. Whatever else one thinks of Jones, he has the right to oppose Islam and to make films that take a critical look at Mohammed. Our freedom of speech — and in this case, of religious practice through comparative criticism — does not get trumped by rioting mobs on the other side of the globe. It’s perfectly fine for people to criticize Jones and his efforts — that’s also free speech — but calling for his prosecution for his speech and religious practice defies everything for which the First Amendment stands.
One might think that journalists would know this better than anyone else … but apparently not, at least not the journalists on MSNBC.
Update: Maybe they should take some lessons in journalism from Timothy Dalrymple, because it’s not clear that Jones has anything to do with the film anyway:
Somehow the name of Terry Jones, the once-obscure fundamentalist Floridian “pastor” who made headlines around the world with his determination to burn copies of the Koran, gets mixed into this. The curious thing? It’s not exactly clear that Terry Jones had anything to do with it. The Coptic blogger, Sadek, had recently met Terry Jones and joined him in an anti-Islamic protest in Washington in June. Beyond that, it’s unclear whether Jones knew of the film or intended to promote it, until now.
The New York Times seems intent to weave Terry Jones’ name throughout the story, but it reports:
Reached by telephone in Florida, a representative of Mr. Jones seemed unaware of the film, but hours later the pastor sent The Lede a statement by e-mail in which he complained of the attack on the embassy in Cairo and announced plans to screen the trailer for the film on Tuesday night. He said that it “reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad.”
Clearly Jones had nothing to do with the production of the film. The Times describes him as an “ally” of Sadek, although it may be the case they only just met in July. There’s also no evidence that Jones had any intention of screening the film until it exploded.
But don’t let that stand in the way of calls for a blasphemy trial for Jones.