New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued an apology Wednesday night for the NYPD’s airing of a controversial film on Muslim extremism. The 71 minute movie, called “The Third Jihad,” was actually played in a waiting room at the training center in Brooklyn “over an extended period” in 2010, according to Kelly’s statement late Wednesday.
Kelly himself appeared briefly in the film, acknowledging in his statement he did the interview, because one of the producers had impressive, NBC network credentials and once worked in the Clinton White House. “The Third Jihad” was removed from a video “loop” in December 2010, after a police officer complained about its content, and the NYPD reprimanded a female sergeant who made the decision to air it at the facility. Kelly said Wednesday, “I offer my apologies to members of the Muslim community, in particular, who would find the film inflammatory and its airing on department property, though unauthorized, to be inappropriate.
The story about the controversial film playing in the training center first broke in January 2011, when Tom Robbins of the Village Voice reported the images of “burning American flags and seething mullahs” were being shown to NYPD officers taking counter-terrorism classes. At that time, deputy NYPD Commissioner for Public Information, Paul Browne, thought the producers had used an “old” interview with his boss, Commissioner Kelly.
But Wednesday afternoon, Kelly’s chief spokesman, Browne, backtracked–and gave a lengthy explanation to PIX 11 about what had happened.
Browne said back on February 7, 2007–nearly five years ago–he was exchanging e-mails with a journalist named Erik Werth. Browne knew Werth as a former network producer for “Dateline: NBC” and an aide in the Clinton White House. He recalled Wednesday that Werth wanted to interview Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, for a documentary about the terror threats our nation faced .and the attacks the NYPD has been able to thwart since 9/11.
Even though Commissioner Kelly appeared in the resulting, 71-minute documentary for a total of 14 seconds, Browne now says the tone of the film, called “The Third Jihad,” makes Kelly wish he’d never participated. The movie, produced by the non-profit Clarion Group, suggests even moderate Muslim groups can’t be trusted–as it presents violent imagery and fiery rhetoric from radical Islamists who want to annihilate the Western way of life. “He would not have done the interview, if he had known it was not going to be a straight documentary,” Browne said of Commissioner Kelly on Wednesday. Just yesterday, when Mayor Bloomberg was asked if he’d been aware the film had been shown at an NYPD training facility, he said, “No–nor was Commissioner Kelly. Somebody exercised some terrible judgment. I don’t know who. We’ll find out.”
Browne told PIX 11 Wednesday the NYPD actually identified the female sergeant who put the film on a “loop” just over a year ago, after someone complained. She was reprimanded but faced no other disciplinary action, according to Browne. Browne told PIX the film was never shown at any, formal training session. It was played in a “waiting room”, he says, “like you might find at an airport or doctor’s office,” where police personnel filled out paper work or read books, while on a break. The cops—from various ranks of patrol, officers to lieutenants–were getting COBRA training at the Brooklyn site. COBRA is an acronym for Chemical, Biological, and Radiological warfare. The film played in the waiting room for at least three months.
When Deputy Commissioner Browne re-checked his e-mails recently, he said he realized Erik Werth, the film’s producer, was involved with the Clarion Group. The group has ties to an Israeli organization that opposes giving up any territory in the West Bank.
Browne pointed out to PIX 11 that many, government figures appear in the film–including FBI Director, Robert Muller. Muller didn’t sit down for an interview, but his former deputy, John Miller, did. Miller has now returned to the television world, working as a correspondent for CBS News. Also featured in the documentary is former, New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who was in office during the 9/11 attacks.
The NYPD has been challenged in recent months by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, for “spying” on Arabic restaurants in various parts of the city. The NYPD and City Hall are working to establish a good dialogue with New York’s large, Muslim community. One source told PIX 11 he thought the recent newspaper reports about the film, coming a year after the story was first reported, were being “hyped up”.