Pamela Geller vs. CNN Host on Mohammed Cartoon Contest Shooting: "We're Abridging Our Freedoms So As Not To Offend Savages"


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN: We do have breaking news for you this morning. Police in Texas gathering information about the two suspects, the two gunmen who opened fire outside a free speech event which featured a cartoon contest of the Prophet Mohammed and a speech from someone who is on the al Qaeda hit list. Why hold this event and possibly invite a threat, given what we saw in Paris in January?

Here to explain all of that is Pamela Geller. She's the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. She organized the Draw Mohammed event in Texas. Pam, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.


CAMEROTA: Pamela, where were you when the gunmen opened fire, and what happened inside?

GELLER: We had just finished a free speech conference. We had (inaudible) there, we had depictions of Mohammed through history, for the past 1,400 years, and we have held a contest, as you know. And the winner, interestingly enough, was a former Muslim, Bosh Faustin (ph). And we had finished the event. It was really very well received, roughly 300 people there. And it was at that time where these two gunmen attempted to storm the building, and they shot at the police. And we were all -- you know, we were all in the room. And the police came in and put us all into lockdown. And so, of course, this terrible incident reflects the need for such conferences. It's illustrative of the violent assault on the freedom of speech.

CAMEROTA: Pam, you know, there was a tweet sent out before the attack warning of the attack. Did you get any intel from the police about just how dangerous an event like this could be?

GELLER: Well, it's dangerous because increasingly, we're abridging our freedoms, so as not to offend savages. The very idea that if something offends me, or I don't -- or I'm insulted by something, I'll kill you and that way I can get my way, and somehow this is okay with members of the elite media and academia is outrageous.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, but Pam, nobody --

GELLER: It's a cartoon. It's a cartoon.


GELLER: It's a cartoon.

CAMEROTA: And nobody is saying that this warrants the violence that you saw. I mean I haven't heard anyone in the media saying that it's okay for gunmen to show up at an event like this. But what people are saying is that there's always this fine line, you know, between freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative.

GELLER: Intentionally incendiary and provocative by drawing a cartoon. This is the low state of freedom of speech in this country. I disagree, and I disagree most vehemently. The First Amendment, not the Eighth, not the 10th, but the Dirst, protects all speech, not just ideas that we like. But even core political speech, ideas that we don't like, because who would decide what's good and what's forbidden? The Islamic state? the government?

Inoffensive speech, Alisyn, needs no protection, but in a pluralistic society you have offensive speech. You have ideas. You have an exchange of ideas. You don't shut down a discussion because I'm offended. If something offends me, should I go out and slaughter people?

CAMEROTA: Sure, of course.

GELLER: When Jesus Christ was put in a jar of urine it was called art. Did Christians like it? Of course not. Did they slaughter people? Did they burn embassies? Did they kill whole communities? Of course not. This cannot be sanctioned. This cannot be sanctioned. The West must stand up for freedom of speech. It's the core, fundamental element of this constitutional republic.

CAMEROTA: I mean what your critics say about this is that you weren't just going after, say, al Qaeda, or ISIS or extremism, but even just Islam. I mean, let me read to you a portion, an excerpt from your keynote speaker, Gerrick Wilders (ph) who said this to the crowd before the attack broke out, he said, "Our Judeo-Christian culture is far superior to the Islamic one. I can give you a million reasons. But here is an important one. We've got humor and they don't. Islam does not allow free speech because free speech shows how evil and wrong Islam is. And Islam does not allow humor because humor shows how foolish and ridiculous it is." Now, of course, that's not about extremism. He's talking about a religion of which there are 3 million Muslims even here in the United States.

GELLER: First of all, he's entitled to his opinion, end of story. So what? So he said that. And frankly, what he said was true. There is no humor. Khomeini when he took over in 1979 said there is no humor. The fact is that we need to have this discussion.

Alisyn, there's a problem in Islam and the problem is, we can't talk about the problem. We are seeing the wholesale slaughter of Christians in Iraq and in Syria, in Nigeria, in the Congo, Central African Republic. The jihad is raging, and all we can talk about is backlash of phobia. It's nonsense. We have to be able to discuss and when you say I'm anti-Muslim. Excuse me, I'm anti-jihad. And anyone that says that I'm anti-Muslim is implying that all Muslims support jihad.

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