Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank set off a flurry of outraged tweets on Monday night after posting a highly critical recap of a panel event at the Heritage Foundation that, he says, “deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering.”
Video of that panel has since surfaced and — in my view — Milbank grossly misrepresented the nature of that exchange.
The woman in question, Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, does not seem to have been “taunted.” Both panelists who responded to her accepted the premise of her question entirely. One of them — Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and CEO of ACT! for America — strongly rebutted Ahmed’s concerns, but never dismissed her right to ask the question.
In an email, Milbank explained that he “was there in the room yesterday, and the reaction in the crowd – the long, standing ovation, the cheers for Gabriel, the fingers pointed at Ahmed, the war whoops – was intense, and a bit scary. The video captures some but not all of that.”
Milbank is right on that point — the video may not capture everything that took place. However, I do believe that the video disproves or casts doubt on several of Milbank’s assertions.
Heritage is planning on releasing video of the entire four-hour event to let everyone judge the panel’s conduct for themselves. Your move, Mr. Milbank.