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State Department: Maybe We'll Publish Remarks of Ground Zero Mosque Opponents, Too

State defends decision to publish Mayor Bloomberg's remarks on Ground Zero Mosque.

3:35 PM, Aug 11, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The State Department is finally explaining why it decided to publish on its affiliate website, www.america.gov, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech, which endorsed the building of the Ground Zero mosque two blocks from the site of an Islamist terrorist attack that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. In an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said the State Department does "not take a position" on the Ground Zero mosque but merely wanted to help people abroad "understand" the debate on the issue. Asked if State would publish opinions of those on the other side of the debate, Crowley said: "We could very well post other points of view on this issue."

State Department: Maybe We'll Publish Remarks of Ground Zero Mosque Opponents, Too

“The posting on america.gov was geared toward helping people elsewhere understand both an issue of some debate in this country, but most importantly that we were going to be guided in resolving this issue by our values,” Crowley explained to me over the phone. “And we thought it was useful for them to hear directly from one of the participants in this issue, Mayor Bloomberg.”

Considering the myriad opinions on this topic, picking a single set of remarks, and choosing to publish those but not others, could be considered an endorsement of sort of that particular position. But Crowley vigorously denied this was the case.

“What we tried to do here is, where you have a debate in this country about an interesting issue, we try to find ways to demonstrate to people around the world, how leaders participate in this debate,” Crowley argued. “So posting Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks were not about the specifics of the controversy, it was about extolling virtues that highlight what is in our view unique about the United States. Pointing out the strength in the midst of a controversy, and how we try to make these kinds of decisions within the context of the values that we espouse as Americans.”

When asked whether this meant the State Department would then publish other people’s opinions on the Ground Zero mosque, Crowley seemed open to that idea, but seemed to indicate that it was not one that the State Department had previously considered: “I think you raise an interesting question. We’re not saying that that will be the last set of remarks that we post on this particular issue. We just had both looked at Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks and, again let me emphasize, [it was] not about the decision regarding the center per se, but the way in which he was helping people understand that it was important to look at this issue within the context of values that we think are important and that highlight the strength of our country. But we may well in the future, and of course it takes a little time to have those remarks translated into other languages. So we could very well post other points of view on this issue. I will pass that back to the people that evaluate content for america.gov.”

Crowley denied that the State Department was trying to influence the domestic debate on the topic. Proof, the spokesman claimed, was in where Bloomberg’s speech was published. The State Department’s main website “state.gov is geared toward providing information to the American people.” But it was published on america.gov, which “is geared toward attitudes overseas. People overseas are not going to play a role, directly, in how this issue gets resolved within the city of New York.”

Crowley did not explain why, then, any foreign national would have any interest in “what is ultimately a local zoning issue, as to whether a particular center should be located here or somewhere else.”

Asked whether Crowley or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thinks that the Ground Zero mosque is insensitive, the spokesman said, “I do not have a position on this issue.” And, according to Crowley, neither does Clinton: “I am not aware that the secretary has a position on this issue.”

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