The war of words between CNN's Chris Cuomo and American Freedom Defense Initiative president Pamela Geller began Thursday when the firebrand defended her plans to run ads in the Washington D.C. transit system featuring the winning cartoon from a "Draw Muhammad" contest she recently sponsored in Texas. Two gunmen that drove 1,000 miles to attack the event opened fire outside and were shot and killed by security.
Cuomo condemned the gunmen's actions but pressed Geller to explain why she would hold such an incendiary event knowing that depicting Muhammad is highly offensive to many Muslims.
"They're crazy extremists. They bought into an ideology that is sick and wrong," Cuomo said of the gunmen. "But what you did was calculated in a way to be provocative. This isn't about not showing [Muhammad drawings] because we're afraid. It's about whether it is right or not. The N-word gets treated in the same way that depictions of Muhammad does. We don't say it because it's offensive, not because legally I can't."
Geller fired back at the comparison.
"You are adhering to Islamic law," she said, adding later, "It's not analogous. It's a cartoon. Cartoon is political opinion."
Geller, whose organization has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, continually argues that she is fighting for free speech and is not anti-Muslim.
Cuomo, however, questioned whether she wants First Amendment rights extended to Muslim Americans.
"You were very active in stopping them from having a place of worship by Ground Zero," he said, referring to the public battle over whether a mosque should open in lower Manhattan. "You said, 'I don't want them here. They don't get to worship here.' How is that not a complete hypocrisy?"
Geller responded that she has no problem with mosques but that including one near the new World Trade Center would be "deeply humiliating and deeply offensive" and "a middle finger to the American people."
What Geller didn't say is that the developer for the proposed mosque dropped the idea more than a year ago, according to the New York Post.