TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pittsburgh Law Dean Boycotts Local TV Station That Refused To Allow Muslim Law Prof To Participate In Panel Discussion Of President Trump's Travel Ban

PittABA Journal, Pitt Law Dean Will No Longer Appear on TV Station Over Alleged Bias Against Middle Eastern Prof:

A University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor says he was passed over as a guest on a local CBS affiliate news show, because he is Iraqi-American and a Muslim. And in the wake of these allegations William M. Carter Jr., dean of the law school and a constitutional scholar, has said that he will no longer appear on KDKA-TV programming.

Haider Ala Hamoudi, whose academic work centers on Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, was suggested as a guest for KDKA last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, after a producer asked a school spokeswoman for professors to speak on a TV panel about the initial travel ban order issued by President Donald Trump’s administration.

According to Hamoudi, who later contacted the station, the producer asked a school spokeswoman “what I ‘was.’ ” The spokeswoman listed his academic-related titles, Hamoudi wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper, and he says the producer responded that she could not have a Middle Eastern man on the panel.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pitt Dean To No Longer Appear on KDKA Following Claims of Bias:

Mr. Carter, the law school dean, would not speak to the Post-Gazette about the matter. But he explained his feelings about the situation in an email to his faculty on Feb. 11. “Speaking only for myself, I believe that these kind of ignorant, biased, identity-based assumptions and statements have no place in the operations of any reputable media organization — whether or not they were intend[ed] to offend — and I am appalled to hear of them,” he wrote. “ . . . Withholding my own interactions with this station is admittedly a very small drop in a very large ocean, but it is one small act of solidarity.”

Mr. Hamoudi, who was hired by the U.S. State Department under President George W. Bush to help Iraq draft its new constitution, said he has seen a greater willingness by people to openly express bias in recent months. “This is the first time in my professional life where I’ve faced something this overt,” he said. “It does seem to me something has gone wrong when a producer feels that free to express that kind of animus so openly.”

Above the Law, Law School vs. TV Station: Showdown Over Racial Bias Questions:

In this case, the channel wanted an informative discussion of a targeted effort to curb the rights of a large swath of Muslims under existing customs and border law. Even assuming the story began its planning stage as an immigration piece, it’s precisely the intersection of law and religion that Hamoudi spends his life examining. His résumé screams interesting angles! The Bush administration tasked Hamoudi with helping write the Iraqi constitution. He’s worked with the very people who cooperated with U.S. policymakers and that the original ban proposed to lock out. If a producer doesn’t see why that adds to an otherwise run-of-the-mill discussion of how immigration law worked until Trump’s order, then it suggests at the very least an unconscious blindness to what he could bring to the table.

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