Sen. Arlen Specter backed out of speaking at a Tuesday conference on the global effort to silence speech critical of Islam, citing a scheduling conflict, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations has taken credit for his decision.
In February Specter introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate aimed at protecting American authors who have been sued under plaintiff-friendly libel laws overseas. He was scheduled to speak about the trend, known as "libel tourism," at a Washington conference being sponsored by the Legal Project of the Middle East Forum, the Federalist Society Center for National Security Law, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.
CAIR branded it an "anti-Islam" conference and launched a petition drive last Friday protesting Specter's appearance, and on Monday the pressure group took credit for getting him to cancel.
But Brooke Goldstein*, who organized the conference in her role as director of the Middle East Forum's Legal Project, said that Specter had canceled his scheduled appearance two days before CAIR launched its online petition. The group issued a press release responding to CAIR this morning, noting that Specter has not changed his support for the legislation he co-sponsored with Sens. Chuck Schumer and Joe Lieberman.
Specter's office wrote in an email to TAS that "he had several hearings and constituent meetings scheduled for this morning."
One of the speakers at the conference, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, noted:
We do not have a strong opinion as to whether, as CAIR puts it, "American Muslims are involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech on Islam." Running a petition to pressure an elected official not to participate in a conference on the subject would seem, however, to fit that description.
Other speakers included Daniel Pipes, Alan Dershowitz, Frank Gaffney, and Andrew McCarthy. More on the conference itself to come.
*Brooke Goldstein is an occasional contributor to The American Spectator.
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