After two gunmen were shot dead on Sunday while attempting to storm an event celebrating cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, many of the nation’s prominent talking heads felt compelled to take a side on the work of anti-Islam activist and conspiracy theorist Pam Geller.
For many on the right, this was a no brainer: pundits at Fox News and National Review, as well as blogs like RedState and Hot Air, defended Geller’s event and slammed liberals for supposedly blaming the victim. At best, she was a courageous free speech activist; at worst, a “provocateur.”
For her part, Geller has repeatedly called out “the Left” for caving in to “savages” on the issue of free speech.
But several high profile conservatives have made it clear they don’t think too much of her cartoon contest, either.
Here are seven of the more prominent — and surprising — examples:
Fox News may be giving Geller more airtime than any other cable news channel in the aftermath of the attack, but not every host considers her a free speech hero like Sean Hannity does.
“Two guys are dead,” O’Reilly said during his show on Monday while sparring with fellow Fox host Megyn Kelly. The host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” who has done his fair share of saber rattling against “radical Islam,” pushed back against Kelly’s defense of Geller.
“It’s always cause and effect,” O’Reilly said. “This is what happens when you light the fuse; you get violence.”
“You sound like you are defending, you are attacking the event itself,” Kelly said.
“No I’m not. I would do it another way,” O’Reilly said.
Geller may hold the distinction of being the only person to unite the one-man Catholic League, Bill Donahue, with any secular liberal, on any issue. But Monday night, he took to the airwaves on the Fox News show “Your World with Neil Cavuto” and condemned her cartoon contest unequivocally.
“When you embolden people, when you empower people, the haters, you’re going to get violence,” Donohue said. “And so why would anybody who’s morally responsibly want to intentionally incite other people?”
“We live in a sick society that some people think it’s good to taunt other people,” he added.
The most straightforward condemnation of Geller came from reality TV star, real estate mogul and wannabe presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Nobody would fight harder for free speech than me but why taunt, over and over again, in order to provoke possible death to audience,” he tweeted on Monday. “DUMB!”
He also complained about it on “Fox & Friends” and suggested Geller draw something else besides Muhammad.
Geller was asked about Trump’s remarks on Fox; she complained that the Donald “flaps his tongue” too much.
Which brings us to Martha MacCallum, the Fox host who pressed Geller to answer her conservative critics on Tuesday. In response to Trump’s line about “taunting” Muslims, Geller ended up comparing herself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
MacCallum, who had been nodding along with Geller during earlier portions of the interview, wouldn’t have it.
“No, no, no, where are you getting the Rosa Parks comparison?” MacCallum said. She brought up Donohue and even the Pope, saying, “if you want to make a difference, you do it in a Christian way, you don’t do it in a crass way by insulting someone’s religion.”
By the end of the segment, MacCallum told Geller, “I get where you are coming from. I’m not sure you went about it the right way.”
Rev. Franklin Graham
Perhaps the most surprising contribution was the Rev. Franklin Graham, who called the cartoon contest “wrong.”
“As a Christian, I don’t like it when people mock my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and what this event in Garland, Texas, was doing was mocking the Muslims,” he said Wednesday during an interview on Fox. “And I disagree with Islam, I don’t believe in Islam, but I’m not going to mock them and make fun of them.”
Greta Van Susteren
Of all the Fox hosts, Van Susteren came down on Geller the hardest, accusing her of luring police into danger by casting aside “good judgment.”
“Yes, of course, there is a First Amendment right and of course it’s very important. But the exercise of that right includes using good judgement,” Van Susteren said on Tuesday evening.
Van Susteren said that “everyone” knew the event would become violent, and that Geller went ahead and put police in jeopardy anyway.
“Was it fair to the police, to knowingly put them at risk by this unnecessary provocation?” she asked. “I say no.”
“There are a lot of things that we can say, that we have a right to say, that we shouldn’t say,” Ingraham told O’Reilly on Tuesday night’s episode of the “The O’Reilly Factor.” “We shouldn’t unnecessarily insult people, personal attacks.”
“To do what was done at this convention,” she said, “it not only doesn’t accomplish anything, I think it could actually make things worse for us.”
Ingraham appeared to realize she was breaking with many on the right over Geller’s antics.
“And I know conservatives watching this across the country are like, ‘I can’t believe Ingraham is coddling the Islamists!’” she said. “No I’m not.”