UPDATE II: What was that all about?
In one of the most bizarre press conferences in recent history, pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, announced on Thursday that he was canceling his planned “international burn-a-Koran day” event for this Saturday, stating that he had struck a deal with the imam of the proposed New York City mosque that would see the mosque relocated.
Multiple news sources quickly reported that the New York mosque’s spokespeople flatly denied the assertion. A mosque representative told MSNBC that “there has been no personal interactions” or “initiatives” between the pastor and the Cordoba Institute, the group planning the lower Manhattan mosque.
But what’s not clear is whether Jones plans to keep to his word that the Koran-burning is off; nor is it clear what motivated Jones to make the announcement, given the apparent lack of any actual deal, or even contact between the two groups.
Jones has since told the media that he was “lied to” about the deal to move the mosque; but some speculate that the announcement may have been a cover story allowing Jones to back down under severe public pressure.
Blogger Nick Saint suggests that there may have been pressure from the highest levels of government that may have prompted Jones to change his mind. He cites an NBC report that Defense Secretary Robert Gates contacted the pastor by phone.
But an editorial in today’s Dothan Eagle suggests a different possibility: The pastor and his approximately 50 followers are just “mixed nuts,” the paper quips.
UPDATE: MSNBC cites “credible sources” as saying that there is no deal between the Florida church planning to burn Korans on the 9/11 anniversary and the imam of the New York City mosque.
Terry Jones, the pastor at the Florida church that vowed to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11, says he has come to an agreement with the imam of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” that will see him call off the Koran-burning in exchange for the New York City mosque being moved.
“The imam has agreed to move the mosque. We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday and Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with him,” Jones said in front of national news cameras on Thursday evening.
The announcement was met with disbelief by TV news hosts, some of whom questioned whether the Cordoba Institute run by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf would be willing to move under the threat of a Koran-burning.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews described it as succumbing to “blackmail.”
“There isnt a single reason to believe a word he said,” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said. He added he expects to see a press release from the New York imam, denying the deal.
This video is from CNN’s The Situation Room, broadcast Sept. 9, 2010.