CNN host Anderson Cooper on Thursday sparred with the Arizona man who organized a “draw Muhammad” cartoon event, and asked him why he planned an event that could provoke backlash.
Arizona resident Jon Ritzheimer has planned a Muhammad cartoon contest and rally for Friday outside the mosque attended by the two gunmen who opened fire outside of anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller’s “Draw Muhammad” contest earlier in May.
Cooper told Ritzheimer that his event was clearly a “provocation.”
“What are you really trying to achieve?” Cooper asked.
Ritzheimer told Cooper that he was “exposing Islam,” and then compared himself to the Founding Fathers.
“Some would probably argue that the signers that signed the Declaration of Independence was a bad idea back in their day,” Ritzheimer said.
“So you’re comparing yourself to the signers of the Declaration of Independence?” Cooper asked.
“Yeah, I don’t want to live in fear. I shouldn’t have to live in fear,” Ritzheimer answered, adding that he has received “credible threats.”
Later, Cooper asked Ritzheimer if he was playing into the hands of the Islamic State.
“Aren’t you playing into the narrative of ISIS, of al Qaeda, which is basically trying to say there is a war between Islam and the West, and you have to choose, you can’t be a Muslim in the United States?” Cooper asked. “Isn’t this exactly the reaction and the message that the terrorists want?”
Ritzheimer told Cooper he was “just doing what I have to do to make sure that my children have a good future.”
Later, after Ritzheimer said he wasn’t looking for war, Cooper asked him if the rally promotes violence.
“You don’t think bringing guns to a mosque while families are praying inside, wearing t-shirts that say ‘F Islam’ and shouting whatever it is you’re going to shout at them, as they come and as they go — you don’t think that’s promoting violence at all?” Cooper asked.
“I think the whole thing is — the cartoon contest, especially — I think it’s stupid and ridiculous,” Ritzheimer responded. “But it’s what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Islam.”
Watch the clip via CNN: