Tim Lemke, Washington Times, April 6, 2006
NASCAR yesterday strongly objected to a planned series of news reports that targets race fans as potential sources of harassment of Muslim-Americans.
As part of a broad story about American attitudes toward Islam, NBC newsmagazine “Dateline” is placing Muslim and Arab-American volunteers in a variety of public places, including NASCAR races, and filming their experiences in an attempt to record discrimination or harassment.
“I think it’s outrageous for a news organization of NBC’s stature to go around and create news as opposed to reporting the news,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said. “Every legitimate journalist should be offended by this.”
Arab-Americans were stationed in the crowd at last week’s NASCAR race in Martinsville, Va., and NBC is considering doing the same at Sunday’s race in Fort Worth, Texas.
NBC officials said NASCAR races were only one place where Muslims would be placed. They also said their story was inspired by a recent poll that showed 46 percent of Americans hold a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the months immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“ ‘Dateline’ is looking into this story,” the network’s statement said. “It’s very early on in our news-gathering process, but be assured we will be visiting a number of locations across the country and are confident that our reporting team is pursuing this story in a fair manner.”
Mr. Poston said NASCAR does not think Muslims would be threatened at a race. He said there was no trouble at the race in Martinsville.
“I’m told there were no incidents at all and that they were treated just like any other fan,” Mr. Poston said.