Reza Aslan, best selling author, scholar of religions (which he all too often likes to point out), public intellectual, and host/co-producer of the CNN spiritual series ‘Believer’, has been unceremoniously dumped by his employer CNN.
Media outlets are pinning his dismissal on a controversial tweet where Aslan cursed out President Trump in the aftermath of his response to the London attacks by describing him as “a piece of shit” and “not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency” but also “an embarrassment to humankind.” Aslan was responding to Trump’s inflammatory reaction to the deadly terrorist attacks in London last week.
We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
Suffice it to say Aslan was pissed off, chose to lean in and publicly sound-off on the President. While many cheered Aslan’s bluntness, it turned out to be a bad career move that did not end well for Aslan.
CNN’s decision came about a week after it cut ties with comedian Kathy Griffin, who has co-hosted the network’s New Year’s Eve show since 2007. Griffin was shown in photos holding up a bloodied, ISIS-like decapitated head of President Trump. First she defended it as artistic, then issued an apology. CNN fired her the next day.
Aslan, a regular fact-checker and defender of Islam, has been an unabashed critic of Trump, but this particular tweet, if you believe the mainstream narrative, crossed a line in the minds of some media critics. Prominent conservatives weighed in and said they wanted Aslan to be fired (shocker).
Realizing his public relations faux-pas as an employee of a mainstream media company, Aslan quickly issued an apology on Twitter.
“I lost my cool and responded to him in a derogatory fashion. That’s not like me,” Aslan said in a statement the next day. “I should have used better language to express my shock and frustration at the president’s lack of decorum and sympathy for the victims of London. I apologize for my choice of words.”
— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) June 4, 2017
CNN responded in a statement: “We are pleased that he has apologized for his tweets. That kind of discourse is never appropriate.” Yet, he was fired and his show “Believer” was not renewed for a second season.
Aslan, graceful in his response, issued a statement acknowledging that he recognized CNN “needs to protect its brand.” He continued:
“Obviously I am very disappointed in this decision. Believer means a great deal to me and to the countless viewers it’s reached,” Aslan said. “Its message of religious tolerance and exploration is extremely important right now. I am deeply grateful to CNN for giving me the opportunity to launch the show and to amplify my voice on their network. I am especially grateful to the legion of people within the Turner organization who worked so hard to make the show a hit series. However, in these politically charged times, the tenor of our nation’s discourse has become complicated, and I recognize that CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news outlet. Similarly, I need to honor my voice. I am not a journalist. I am a social commentator and scholar. And so I agree with CNN that it is best that we part ways. I look forward to partnering with another platform in the future to continue to spread my message. I wish CNN all the best.”
While it’s true that Aslan opened himself up to major criticism with his reactive, poorly-timed and emotionally-charged tweet, was it really the reason for his firing? ‘Covfefe, covfefe.’ I mean, for Pete’s sake, CNN’s political commentator and unabashed Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord utters nonsense on a daily basis but still has a job with the network; as does sophomoric host Don Lemon with his growing highlight (lowlight) reel of how not to conduct interviews and host panel discussions.
So, what’s the deal?
The firing likely had less to do with that tweet and more to do with the show’s disappointing ratings. To be blunt, the show kinda’ sucked, right? While the Nielsen ratings for the season premiere were strong, the chorus of critics, including The New Yorker, LA Times, Salon, The Federalist, Huffington Post and others point towards ‘Believer’ being a ratings flop that CNN ultimately wanted to get off the books. Aslan’s dismissal for a profanity-laced attack of Trump gave CNN a win-win opportunity to appear as a ‘balanced’ media outlet, while conveniently punting on season 2 of ‘Believer’.
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