Star Tribune: For irresponsible Muslim-bashing, fire Katherine Kersten

Katherine Kersten, columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has made a habit of demonizing Muslims in Minnesota.  But in her recent smear of a local grade school, Kersten went further and committed journalistic malpractice. There is no place for her in a newspaper that claims to represent a general audience in a pluralistic society.

Kersten alleged that the school used public funds for religious practices.  Her evidence: the word of one substitute teacher who spent a few hours in the school, made assumptions about what she saw, and never got the truth. Kersten failed to mention that her source was a Republican Party activist. More irresponsibly, Kersten used a tenuous and far-fetched guilt-by-association to suggest that these Minnesota educators were connected to terrorism in the Middle East. Those reckless accusations led to death threats directed at the school and sent fear through the Muslim community.

Community members have repudiated Kersten's attack:
  • Wayne Jennings, former St. Paul Schools administrator, member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, March 12: "The school is not a religious school in any way."
  • Charter school expert Joe Nathan, April 10: "The school is NOT a pervasively sectarian school. I have visited such schools - Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, etc. Tarek Ibn Ziyad has no similarity to the pervasive religious symbols and promotion of a particular faith in such schools. ... The message throughout Tarek is of peace, tolerance and respect for others."
  • Carla A. Bates, Minneapolis School Board candidate, April 14: "I call into question the integrity with which Katherine Kersten levels her complaints. I think it's Islam that she doesn't like, and she is going to put a successful school through the ringer because she doesn't like how it looks, sounds, or behaves. "
  • Mohammad Zafar, a former Marine and parent of a student at the school, April 17: "Star Tribune needs to hold Katherine Kersten responsible for falsifying a story with very little or no research. She has shown her strong bias and false reporting ... they need to hold her accountable for breaking the basic ethics and moral obligation that all reporters need to uphold."
  • Rep. Mindy Greiling, K-12 Finance Chairwoman, Minnesota House of Representatives, May 7: "Kersten's reckless journalistic standards have diminished this paper's credibility. Worse, they have threatened the safety of the children and staff at the school. ... Kersten's gross distortion of the facts in this case should compel Star Tribune management to ask for her resignation."

We agree. To the managers and editors of the Star Tribune, we say: You have allowed Kersten's racist bullying of a religious minority for too long. Now, your lack of oversight of her verification has unjustly damaged the reputation of local educators and placed their students in danger.  If you want to reassure the public that the Star Tribune does not endorse her reckless bigotry, cancel her column.
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