by Jeff Woods
The morning paper describes Emerson only as "a Washington D.C.-based journalist who focuses on 'Islamic extremist networks, financing and operations.'" That information comes from Emerson's website, we are told. What the article fails to mention is that Emerson long ago was discredited as a media source on terrorism.
In a 1999 write-up, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting stated Emerson's "priority is not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims." That report said Emerson has a history of "pushing questionable stories."
Emerson's most notorious gaffe was his claim that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing showed "a Middle Eastern trait" because it "was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible." (CBS News, 4/19/95) Afterward, news organizations appeared less interested in Emerson's pronouncements. A CBS contract expired and wasn't renewed. Emerson had been a regular source and occasional writer for the Washington Post; his name doesn't turn up once in Post archives after January 1, 1996. USA Today mentioned Emerson a dozen times before September 1996, none after.
"He's poison," says investigative author Seymour Hersh, when asked about how Emerson is perceived by fellow journalists.
The Tennessean says it did see the MySpace page before it was purged, but its description of the postings stop short of backing up what Zelenik and Emerson are claiming. The article says the postings "consist of a picture of the site's author at a Muslim summer camp, an illustration of two former Hamas leaders and statements written in Arabic and English that the report says express support for Palestinian terrorists."
This controversy in Murfreesboro is ugly and volatile. Before giving Zelenik space in your newspaper to advance her congressional candidacy by throwing yet more gasoline on this fire, it's probably a good idea to do a little Googling on the source of her information.
Update: The story makes a big splash in Murfreesboro's Daily News Journal too. Again, there's no mention of Emerson's history.