The Heritage Foundation pushed back against a column The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank published Tuesday that stirred outrage over one of the group’s panel events that featured a tense exchange between a Muslim woman wearing Islamic headwear and four panelists.
The panel, “Benghazi: The Difference it Makes is Accountability!” was held Monday at the Heritage Foundation’s headquarters in Washington D.C. Milbank’s headline described it as an “ugly” panel. According to Milbank, the event devolved when Saba Ahmed, an American University law student who was wearing a Muslim head scarf, asked the panel a question about why all Muslims seemed to be portrayed in a negative light.
Milbank’s next paragraph characterised panelist Brigitte Gabriel of the group ACT! for America as “pounc[ing].” However, he omitted other less heated exchanges that came before Gabriel’s more charged back-and-forth with Ahmed, according to video released Tuesday by the liberal watchdog Media Matters. These omissions led Heritage to accuse him and others of misrepresenting the exchange.
“During the first panel, a question from the audience started a passionate discussion that included much agreement by panelists and the questioner on the need for open dialogue,” Wesley Denton, Heritage’s vice president of communications and media relations, told Business Insider in an email.
“While the exchange has been mischaracterized by some, the questioner received supportive applause after the discussion concluded. Heritage encourages open debate and wants everyone on our premises to feel welcome and treated with respect.”
For his part, Milbank tweeted Tuesday that he felt he “accurately captured the hostility.” Milbank also said he spoke to Ahmed after the event, and she told him she felt “targeted” by the panelists. Milbank gave his account of the incident amid mounting criticism, including a blog post from Politico’s Dylan Byers that called Milbank’s column a “disaster.”
Ahmed didn’t respond to emails and phone calls Tuesday from Business Insider. A spokesman at American University also said he contacted Ahmed about Business Insider’s request for comment.
Here’s the full video of the exchange, from Media Matters. Gabriel’s comments begin around the 4:15 mark:
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