'New York Times' Runs Anti-Islamist Ad, And The Timing Is Exceptionally Poor

The Grey Lady made headlines Thursday after the New York Times published an anti-Islamist ad from the Investigative Project on Terrorism. The full-screen advertisement on the paper's website, complete with a photo of the World Trade Center towers, told readers "Islamist groups" are "undermining America's security, liberty, and free speech." It just so happens that the display coincided with the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, touching a public nerve and prompting a swift change in the ad's wording.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit founded by Steven Emerson in 1995, researches the operations and activities of what they deem "Islamic terrorist and extremist groups" throughout the world. The ad in the Times reads, "Still here. Still free. But for how long?" and is meant to correspond with this week's commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, according to a statement from the IPT. The statement reads:

The threat from radical Islamist terrorists who killed thousands of innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 is as real today as it was then, if not more so. It is undeniable that those behind the 9-11 attacks and other Islamic terrorism were motivated by radical Islamic ideology. To deny the truth behind the religious motivation of Islamic terrorists is an insult to the memory of the 9-11 victims and all other victims of Islamic terrorism.

While the statement specifies the term "radical," the advertisement on the Times website failed to include the key word. Following backlash, the newspaper changed the online display to say "Stop the radical Islamist groups from undermining America's security, liberty, and free speech."

A Times spokeswoman told Digiday the decision to ask for the alteration was made within the company. “We think the phrase ‘radical Islamists’ would have been better than ‘Islamists’,” she said. “The advertiser agreed to the change and the ad has been updated on nytimes.com.”

Some readers sent letters to the newspaper, including representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We...basically said, the worst thing he said about us was we refused to link Islam to terrorism,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's national communications director said of the IPT's statement. “We love Islam and we believe it is not linked to terrorism.”

The Times usually accepts and publishes a variety of advertisements on hot-button topics, and their policy prohibits those that that are "gratuitously offensive on racial, religious or ethnic grounds." Still, this incident seems like a bigger lapse in judgment. It's clear times are rough for media organizations when it comes to advertising, given that outlets like Time Inc. have taken to putting ads on the cover of magazines.

It's not the first time The Grey Lady has made a questionable decision in advertising, with off-putting placement for story coverage or misleading promotions for movies. The anti-Islamist sentiment, however, may take the cake. The New York Times is held to a particular standard, and needless to say, people were pretty pissed — the IPT included.

In a series of tweets, the organization responded to the issue, saying that the changes to their advertisement came as a surprise since the Times had approved their original version on Tuesday.

A full-page ad from the IPT was also published in the newspaper on Wednesday, though the media outlet still states in their policy that they "do not verify, nor...vouch for, statements of purported fact in advocacy/opinion advertisements."

Image: Investigative Project on Terrorism