- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

Failure to make the PBS cut

As the independent producer hired by WETA as series producer for the 12-hour PBS series “America at a Crossroads,” I am writing in response to the article “PBS shelves film on moderate Muslims” (Page 1, Wednesday), which quotes the claims of Frank Gaffney (a producer whose film was not selected for the initial series airing) that I and my WETA colleagues have been conducting an “ideological vendetta” against his program.

“America at a Crossroads,” which was conceived more than three years ago by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is a bold and important television series that includes a broad array of different viewpoints as it examines the complex issues that came out of the attack on America on September 11. As anyone who watches the series — that runs on PBS between April 15 and April 20 — is likely to acknowledge, the suggestion that we are suppressing the views of moderate Muslims is totally false. One broadcast source already quoted in the article stated: “These guys are 100 percent wrong; rather it is the case of one disappointed filmmaker and his political partners overreacting.”

However, Mr. Gaffney and his colleagues have now chosen to make their attacks personal, even leveling accusations against my father, a respected author and Muslim convert, and suggesting that this family connection has compromised my editorial judgment. This is an absurd claim. In truth, my father, who converted to Islam almost 50 years ago, is a retired British diplomat of impeccable reputation who is now in his 80s. He writes to better explain Islam to Western readers and has been publicly lauded in Britain as a bridge builder between faiths.

One of his books, “Islam and the Destiny of Man” (published in 1985), is highly respected throughout the moderate Islamic intellectual community. For the past two decades, his writings have been influential in helping young Westernized Muslims better understand the true heart of their faith and how it relates to other faiths. He is totally opposed to the Islamist “hijacking” of Islam and has been publicly attacked many times over the years by fundamentalist and conservative Muslim scholars who reject his Western bias. Mr. Gaffney’s charge is both unwarranted and untrue.

Additionally, Martyn Burke, producer of “Islam versus Islamist,” claims that he was asked to “fire” Mr. Gaffney as executive producer because of his political opinions. This is totally misleading. Long before WETA was involved in this project, concerns were expressed by both PBS and CPB that the editorial focus of “Islam versus Islamist” too closely echoed the views publicly expressed by Mr. Gaffney and Co-Executive Producer Alex Alexiev in their official positions at the Center for Security Policy, a conservative advocacy group that fights Islamist influence here in the United States.

Since longstanding PBS guidelines define this as a conflict of interest, Mr. Gaffney was advised that the film would have a better chance of acceptance if he recused himself as executive producer, as those with similar conflicts of interest on other “Crossroads” programs had already done. Although Mr. Gaffney and Mr. Alexiev chose not to do so, PBS agreed to judge the program on its merits.

I and my colleagues at WETA and PBS have always believed the individual characters and stories included within the original two-hour cut of “Islam versus Islamists” to be both important and compelling. It is how Messrs. Gaffney and Burke choose to frame and structure their characters and stories that hasn’t yet met PBS standards.

While we have continuously stated our willingness to work with the producers, Messrs. Gaffney and Burke have chosen to “attack the messenger” rather than trying to correct the message. Such attacks on me and my colleagues for an “ideological vendetta” deflect attention away from some real problems inherent in the program as it exists. Along with my colleagues at PBS and WETA, I hope that a revised cut of this film will be forthcoming since I believe it to be an important and timely subject.


Series Producer

America at a Crossroads


Move on with the debate

The Washington Times’ coverage of the views expressed by Democratic Party presidential candidates over the Web at nearly 1,000 MoveOn home meetings across the country (“Democrats debate Iraq war online,” Nation, Wednesday) missed two important facts.

First, Republican candidates were invited but declined to participate in answering the questions MoveOn volunteers provided in advance. The primary question was about their plan for exiting Iraq. Could it be that Republican candidates have no plan?

Second, and more important, just two of the six Democratic candidates expressed a concern about the “long war” on terrorism in addition to their specific plans for exiting Iraq.

In my view, the greatest weakness of most Democratic hopefuls is their failure to recognize terrorism as a real and growing threat to our freedom, prosperity and security.

I believe Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. had the most realistic and sensible solution to Iraq, but only Sens. Barack Obama and Christopher J. Dodd expressed concern about the greater threat of radical Islamists.

The greatest weakness of most Republican wannabes is their unyielding belief that military force will defeat terrorists.

I’m still waiting for a candidate from either party with the courage to state that eliminating the threat of murderous terrorists is more a function of the force of law than the law of force.



Ignoring Medicaid realities

While the informative article “States tailor Medicaid to meet individual needs” (Page 1, Thursday) touches upon one of the most significant health-care policy trends — the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for currently uninsured populations. We are concerned that other Medicaid reforms ostensibly designed to save state Medicaid funds may be undermining the ability to provide quality nursing-home care for America’s most vulnerable frail, elderly and disabled people.

At issue is the rapidly increasing use of Medicaid waivers to shift more and more seniors out of facility-based care to home- and community-based care. Despite the fact that we strongly support this overall effort and wholeheartedly endorse every senior’s right to receive care in the setting that best meets his or her needs and personal preference, many states are rushing residents out of high-cost nursing-home care to lower-cost home and community care — and claiming “savings” in the form of lower payments to the nursing-home sector.

Unfortunately, this amounts to an unwise quick fix that ignores demographic reality. Seniors 85 and older make up the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group. That is the good news. However, more Americans than ever inevitably will require the level of care only a nursing home can provide. The bad news is that the infrastructure required to care for this imminent wave of older seniors is being allowed to deteriorate in a dangerous manner as state budgets skew toward home and community care at the expense of facility care.

The key point from a budgetary perspective is that there is little evidence to suggest increased use of these non-facility settings through Medicaid waivers is being offset by decreased use of nursing home care — one of the primary policy rationales of the funding shift itself. The argument that states will “save” money by shifting patients out of nursing homes is largely illusory.

As Americans live longer, healthier lives, nursing home use is simply delayed. While we must continue to expand seniors’ care options, the lesson is that there is no magic fiscal or policy elixir that will alleviate demographic reality, and this is a fact that cannot be ignored in Washington and state capitals across America.


President and CEO

American Health Care Association


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