Instead, Fox News is doubling down.
The instantly-viral, cringe-inducing Fox News interview between religion scholar Reza Aslan and “Spirited Debate” host Lauren Green continues to pay dividends.
Green drew widespread criticism by continuously pressing the why-would-a-Muslim-write-about-Jesus line of questioning, despite Aslan explaining it’s because he is a religious scholar and an academic who writes about religion for a living. (Aslan has also written about Islam, Judaism and Hinduism.)
Using Green’s line of reasoning, you wouldn’t be able to write about Democrats if you are a Republican. If you’re a man you can’t write about a woman. If you had a child you can’t write about abortion. If you’re white you can’t write about blacks. If you’re an American citizen you can’t write about illegal aliens. Of course, the critics saw her line of questioning as absurd, particularly after Aslan had answered it the first time.
Nonetheless, the network is now trying to defend itself from the harsh criticism Green’s interview received by claiming in another network segment that she did a great job interviewing Aslan about his new book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”
In this latest segment, host Shannon Bream interviews Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center and a regular guest on Fox News programs. Bream begins first with the usual “evil liberal media” talk, but when Bozell begins speaking, it’s tough to say what quote jumps out the most, though all of it falls under a common tactic at the network: Shoot the messenger, at one point even claiming that Azlan is not a “very good Muslim.”
Moments later, Bozell questioned Aslan’s academic background: “He also said he has a history degree in religion,” said Bozell. “He doesn’t.”
Aslan’s four degrees: a 1995 bachelor’s degree in religion from Santa Clara University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa; a 1999 Master of Theological Studies from Harvard; a 2002 Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and a 2009 PhD in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
What people outside this field of scholarship might miss is that “history of religions” is the name of an approach to religious studies, one which is associated with UC Santa Barbara, where Aslan earned his PhD. Referring to someone with such training as a historian of religions is common practice in the field. That terminological nicety aside, New Testament scholars and sociologists learn a fair amount about doing historical scholarship so someone with such training doing historical work is not a scandal, not at all.
Green, a former Miss Minnesota, has a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from the University of Minnesota, and attended graduate school to study journalism at Northwestern University, but there’s no record of her having graduated with an advanced degree.
Meanwhile, at no point did host Shannon Bream have the presence of mind to ask Bozell if he had read Azlan’s book. Bozell has a BA in history from the University of Dallas.
After his interview with Green, Aslan’s book jumped to number one on the NY Times bestseller list. So while Aslan may ultimately have the last laugh, the joke continues to be on Fox News, which is ignoring the old adage: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
And you know what Jesus Christ said, don’t you? “I’d really like to write an autobiography, but being a Jew, I’m not allowed to write about my own life.”