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Russell Simmons on CNN: Christians Bombed the WTC in 1993?

Russell Simmons, founder of the hip-hop label Def Jam, bizarrely and inaccurately claimed during an interview on Wednesday's Larry King Live on CNN that the perpetrators behind the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 were Christians: "If you're blaming Muslims for the attack on 9/11, then you need to change your mind. We didn't- did we blame Christians at the first World Trade attack? We didn't" [audio clip available here].

Host Larry King brought on Simmons to discuss the controversy over the New York City mosque near Ground Zero. He appeared immediately after an interview of New York Governor David Paterson, who attempted to negotiate with the planners behind the mosque in order to get its site moved. King first asked the entrepreneur to respond to the governor's efforts. He unequivocally supported the proposed worship space: "We should make every effort not to move it. I think it's critical that we recognize that we built this country on religious tolerance and on religious freedom. And so, if we want to penalize the two billion Muslims because of the actions of a few, then we have to examine the way we look at each other and all religions. So I think it would be a terrible idea to move the mosque."

Later, during the second segment of the interview, King played a clip of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich expressing his opposition to the proposed mosque, and prompted Simmons to respond. The "hip-hop pioneer," as the CNN host earlier labeled him, lamented not only the Speaker's opposition, but the wider opposition to the project in general, and proceeded to make his false claim:

SIMMONS: Well, I'm sorry he feels that way. It's sad in this day and time that Americans who built this country on interfaith respect and dialogue would think that- he could think that, and- I'm sorry, not only that he thinks that, that he has support. It's very- it's saddening that we have this kind of belief system....The fact is we were attacked by al Qaeda, and not by Islam, and the fact is, there are hundreds of millions of law-abiding, respectful Muslims, and American Muslims are respectful, and they build this country, and they're an important part of this country, and if we can't respect them, then we don't deserve the respect that we can't give them.

We don't- in other words what we give to others is what we get for ourselves, and there's- it's a terrible state that we're in, that we can have this kind of discussion. That we're even talking about this. Again, it was not politicized for years. They've been working on this for a long time, and the fact that they're making- that there is such opposition, and there's so many people who have lost people in the World Trade [Center], who are supportive of this, and they're not being promoted.

There's a lot of dialogue about some people are sensitive and who- but, again, like I said, if you are- if you're blaming Muslims, then you need to change your mind. If you're blaming Muslims for the attack on 9/11, then you need to change your mind. We didn't- did we blame Christians at the first World Trade attack? We didn't, and I think it's insane and it's wrong-headed. It creates a negative- cycle of negativity.

One wonders if he was thinking about the Oklahoma City bombing, which was perpetrated by a Catholic-turned-agnostic. In any case, the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was committed by Ramzi Yousef, the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was aided by several other Islamic radicals. Yousef later plotted to assassinate Pope John Paul II and blow up several airliners over the Pacific Ocean before he was arrested in Pakistan in 1995.

Earlier, the CNN host asked Simmons, "Isn't there a reasonable solution?" Simmons, who is also a contributor to the left-wing Huffington Post website (where he first expressed his support for the mosque), spouted a series of liberal talking points, not only on the mosque, but on American domestic and foreign policy:

SIMMONS: Muslim-Americans and other Americans are fighting to free Muslims. But we're saying that we can't have Muslims have a religious center or a community center in the community where two- there are two churches. There's the holocaust museum- or the Museum of Tolerance, and we can't have a mosque there. That says something very bad about the state of America today. Even if there's a discussion- for me, is- it's hurtful. But the two billion Muslims who are watching us now are being hurt....

The fact is al Qaeda attacked us, not the Muslim religion, and if Islam didn't attack us, we can't hold them all accountable, and if someone had- if someone believes that they hold ill will towards the whole Muslim faith because of it, then they're wrong....

It's a center that is open to everyone, and I think we should respect their plans. In fact, we should support their plans, and that's been my opinion, as the chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Rabbi Marc Schneier who's also the chairman of the World Jewish Congress.

The whole group of us who promote religious tolerance, who know how important it is, because if we don't promote religious tolerance, then we could create- we already have created, after 9/11, a very negative reaction, when, in fact, we had our chance to promote world peace. After 9/11, with all the compassion that was given to us, we threw a lot of it away, and I think now is an opportunity for us to turn it around, and promote a relationship with the Islamic world that makes good sense, not one that's based in fear and ignorance.


-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.