Muslim groups alarmed by new CNN boss’s first big hire

CNN hired John Millera former New York City Police Department official who lied about the department’s history of surveilling Muslims, to be its top law enforcement and intelligence analyst — a move that alarmed leaders and civil rights activists.

“John will help deliver on CNN’s commitment to solving complex issues while presenting audiences with independent, objective information and meaningful analysis across all platforms,” ​​CNN’s relatively new president and CEO Chris Licht said Tuesday. in a press release. “As a brilliant journalist and an experienced and compelling subject matter expert, he brings an incredible breadth of knowledge to the network.”

Critics, however, have drawn attention to other aspects of Miller’s record. During testimony before the New York City Council in March, Miller denied that the NYPD never spied inappropriately on Muslims, although the department has admitted to conducting a monitoring program of Muslims after the September 11 attacks.

While running the program – which was exhibited in 2011 in a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press report – the NYPD used census data to spy on Muslim Americans in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, placing undercover informants in predominantly Muslim communities. Informants took photos and videos of mosque worshipers, recorded worshipers’ license plate numbers, chatted with Muslim business owners, hung out at hookah bars — and reported it all to the NYPD.

The NYPD admitted that the program did not produce a single track to any terrorist plots, and the department has settled at least three trials regarding the monitoring program over the past few years. Miller refused to admit any wrongdoing on the part of the NYPD and claimed there was no proof from improper supervision.

But members of the Muslim community say the program has done irreversible damage, and they wonder what Miller’s new role at CNN might mean for coverage of American Muslims at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise.

CNN did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Shahana Hanif, the first female Muslim member of the New York City Council, told HuffPost that Miller should be removed from office and she doesn’t think he can be objective.

“The fact that he can take on a position that will give him a wider impact at an outlet that many of us trust is just another reminder of how Muslims in our city are treated.” , said Hanif. “I hope CNN is watching the kind of backlash and response to this hiring, and they should take the voices of the Muslim community very seriously because we are viewers too. We, too, want objective information.

Hanif, who questioned Miller at an eight-hour city council meeting earlier this year, was one of several Muslim leaders who met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams after the testimony and lobbied for that Miller be fired. Miller, who was then deputy intelligence and counterterrorism commissioner, resigned from the NYPD after local officials, including Adams, disavowed comments he made during his testimony.

Protesters listen to residents and civil and legal rights advocates hold a news conference June 18, 2013 in New York City to discuss a planned lawsuit challenging the city’s police department’s surveillance of businesses frequented by Muslim residents and mosques in the area.

TIMOTHY CLARY via Getty Images

News outlets must remember and speak out against the actions of the NYPD and the harmful effects they have had on American Muslims, said Naz Ahmad, acting director of the Creating Forces Accountability and Accountability Project. order at the City University of New York School of Law. CLEAR filed one of the lawsuits against the NYPD.

“The reluctance to reflect on the results of what you’ve done and not see that as a problem, I think suggests that maybe someone will struggle to be objective,” Ahmad said. “At the very least, don’t deny it happened.

Moiz Mohammed, who was a plaintiff in another case against the NYPD that was settled in 2019, said it was “surprising” that CNN hired Miller.

“If he was brought here as an occasional contributor to represent various spectrums of viewpoints, that’s another thing altogether. But being hired in such a leadership position, where a lot of these things that he will have to cover in the future will overlap with that – I just don’t understand that,” Mohammed said. “It just takes away the credibility of how CNN will handle these topics in the future.”

Ahmed Mohamed, legal director for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he wondered if Miller could “be credible for a major news network.”

“He played a major role in destroying the lives of Muslims in New York, running the unconstitutional surveillance program,” Mohamed said. “He shouldn’t have a similar role to CNN, further stigmatizing and marginalizing Muslims.”

Miller previously served as a correspondent for CBS News and ABC News, and worked as a spokesperson for the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Al-Haj Talib Abdur-Rashid, the chief imam of the Islamic Brotherhood mosque in New York and an outspoken critic of Miller, said Miller’s hiring points to a larger issue about how marginalized groups are covered in the media.

“All of us as American citizens must be diligent about news reports from individuals who have no record of advocating for the rights of American citizens in the name of safety,” Abdur-said Rashid.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a nonprofit media watchdog, raised similar concerns. He said anti-Muslim bias is often not taken as seriously by the media as discrimination against other groups, and studies show that Muslims tend to be portrayed negatively in the American media.

“If the kind of things he did and said about Muslims had been done to other groups, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now, because he wouldn’t have been hired,” Carusone said. .

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story described Hanif as “the first and only Muslim member of the New York City Council”. She is the first female Muslim member.


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