AFDI Honors Request of Foley Family, Modifies Ad Featuring Slain Journalist

We have altered the “moderate” ad in our ad campaign and removed the image of James Foley at the request of his family.

Here is the letter we received from the attorney engaged by The Fogel family:

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The use of  Mr. Foley’s photo in our advertisement  would cause “profound distress to the Foley family.”

We have revised the “moderate” ad with Abdul Bary (Foley’s alleged  executioner) with someone else’s severed head. It didn’t take but a minute to find scores of photos that would fit the ad. The ease of modification speaks to the magnitude of the problem.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 3.02.31 PMThe message of our campaign is not harm but to inform. The common thread that runs through the jihad in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Nigeria, China, Thailand, Israel, Chechyna, Moscow, London, Madrid, Burma and ….. Oklahoma is a devout adherence to Islam. So many Muslims now flocking to the Middle East were previously “moderate.” It is when they become devout that they engage in a bloody and vicious holy war.

Clearly, it’s not all Muslims, but there is a problem in Islam and we are prohibited from talking about it. Which is why our ad campaign is so essential.

That said, we mourn the loss of Mr. Foley’s life. His family has grievously suffered. I have altered the ad and removed Foley’s photo and inserted a phot of Abdul Bary with another one of his victims.

The ad was never specifically about Foley (or Sotloff or Haines or Gordel); it was about stopping the next beheading, saving the next life, exposing the ideology that commands this relentless and bloody war on the non-believer. I could just have just as easily inserted any one of the tens of thousands of Muslims who have left their Western countries to wage jihad. I could have inserted  Alton Nolan (aka Jah’Keem Yisrael), the Tsarnaev brothers, Major Nidal Hasan, the Times Square bomber, the underwear bomber, Muhammad Merah, Mumbai mastermind David Headley, Anwar Awlaki, beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad,  Ali Brown Muhammad, Mufid Elfgeeh, et al.

Our response:


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J. Patrick Rowan, Esq. McGuireWoods LLP 2001 K Street N.W. Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20006

September 28, 2014

Re: Your letter to Pamela Geller (9.27.14) requesting AFDI to pull advertisement featuring James Foley

Dear Mr. Rowan:

My client, Pamela Geller, received your letter of yesterday by email in the early evening hours wherein you requested that the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) pull the advertisement illustrating a photograph of James Foley as a captive of Islamic terrorists just prior to his beheading. The ad depicts by way of juxtaposition the transition of “moderate Muslims” to murderous jihadists.

My firm, the American Freedom Law Center, represents AFDI, Pamela Geller, and Robert Spencer in matters relating to the AFDI transit advertising campaign. As such, Ms. Geller forwarded to me your email and attached letter last night. My clients have asked me to respond to you directly and formally. Please accept this letter as their response and provide it to your clients as, it seems to me, that would be appropriate.

Let me begin with the first and important message of this communication. Ms. Geller, Mr. Spencer, and AFDI all wish to extend their deepest condolences and sympathies to the Foley family for the loss of their loved one. The inhumane atrocities perpetrated by the global Islamic jihad affect all of us, but what is often missed in the media frenzy that follows such savage barbarity, as brought home to us with the murder of James Foley, is the personal grief the family feels. As a mother, and one who still feels the pain of the hideous murders of many in her extended family by the Nazis, and with friends in Israel brutally affected by Islamic terrorism as a constant of daily life, Ms. Geller understands and feels intimately the pain your clients are suffering. Neither she nor AFDI wish to add to that pain, even if only tangentially.

For this reason, and this reason alone, my clients have reached out as early as this morning to the New York and San Francisco transit authorities’ respective advertising agents to pull the displays depicting the captive Mr. Foley prior to his beheading. The ads were scheduled to run in New York on Monday, and while my clients have formally recalled this particular display, it is certainly possible some of them might be missed by transit personnel given the size of the ad buy. Further, my clients have postponed the display scheduled to run in San Francisco in order to replace those bus ads. This is a nation-wide campaign, and these efforts have and will require my clients to expend substantial resources retooling the ad buys to accommodate Mr. Foley’s parents, but this is a compassionate effort my clients have chosen to undertake to express in a tangible way their sincere and quite personal condolences.

With that said and done, however, my clients believe it is important they we respond to two expressed points raised in your letter and one implicit message. First, the implicit message. James Foley was a journalist who most certainly understood and respected the paramount importance of the First Amendment. And, as you most certainly know as Mr. and Mrs. Foley’s attorney, the First Amendment provides an absolute protection against any legal claims by your clients, or anyone else for that matter, arising from the use of the picture for my client’s advertisement campaign. Indeed, while I did not know Mr. Foley and likely would have parted ways with him on any number of subjects, I am sure he would agree with my clients that journalism and political speech, while oftentimes harsh and sometimes repugnant to the eye, must be protected and indeed promoted lest our liberties be reduced to the history books—books themselves likely to be burnt by the tyrannies that fill the void when inconvenient or uncomfortable truths are ignored or, worse, watered-down to protect our sensitivities. We make this point here to emphasize that my clients have recalled the specific display from their advertisement campaign for no reason other than their personally- felt compassion for your clients’ grief. We advised our clients there was absolutely no legal reason to do so.

Second, my clients reject entirely the claim in your letter that my clients’ advertisement campaign, and in particular the display depicting Mr. Foley, “seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat.” None of my clients’ displays conveys that message expressly or impliedly. The ads convey a stark reality and a brute fact: Islamic terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Sharia, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and many more, have access and influence among the “moderate” Muslim communities around the globe for both recruiting purposes and financial support. Indeed, Western Muslims turned jihadists are far more likely to come from the community of “ordinary practitioners of Islam” than from any other community.

While you might argue these irrepressible facts are unworthy of public debate, you would be mistaken and guilty of conflating political correctness with political discourse. Indeed, the “dangerous threat” you reference arises more from a willful blindness to the realities of Islamic jihad and its ability to recruit quite effectively among the “ordinary practitioners of Islam” than from those, such as my clients, who are prepared to discuss this uncomfortable reality publicly and to begin the process of dealing with the “dangerous threat” before it metastasizes in the West aided by the impunity granted by those who would silence my clients.

Finally, my clients wish to emphasize that the advertisement campaigns AFDI has undertaken to spark public debate about the threat from Islamic terrorism have nothing to do with fund raising. While AFDI is a non-profit organization and certainly depends on fund raising efforts to underwrite such campaigns, it is equally true that Ms. Geller and Mr. Spencer live under constant threat of the kind of death suffered by your clients’ son for the simple fact that they are dedicated to exposing the truth about Islamic jihad. Mr. Foley was murdered because he dared go where few would travel to expose the truth as he understood it. He paid for his courage with his life. Whether my clients agree or disagree with Mr. Foley’s worldview, their respect for his intrepidity and integrity as a journalist is diminished not at all. For they, like Mr. Foley, understand that what separates civility and peaceful coexistence from savagery and the wars Mr. Foley gave his life to cover is the degree to which a political society embraces unequivocally the freedom to engage in a robust and oftentimes uncomfortable debate in the public sphere.

My clients will not back down from that challenge even in the face of death threats. What they will do, however, is demonstrate that even in the midst of this emotional and personally costly existential battle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the face of a global jihad seeking to destroy the very society that gave birth to these first freedoms, personal compassion is not lost. This is in memory of James Foley.

David Yerushalmi


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