A government agency sponsors a community outreach program, but limits media access solely to representatives of the community involved. In doing so, the most powerful press representative present was a publisher who has repeatedly endorsed two groups the United States has designated as terrorists.
That's what happened last October when the Commerce Department co-sponsored a "Muslim-American Business Outreach Meeting" with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, Michigan.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealed that 75 people attended the invitation-only event. Most were touted as local Muslim and Arab-American business and community leaders. Invitations indicate the event was "At the request of the National Security Council at the White House" as a follow-up to President Obama's Cairo speech last June. Part of his remarks pledged to work at forging new business partnerships domestically and in the Middle East with the Muslim community."
That included Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News in Dearborn. Siblani has a history of endorsing Hamas and Hizballah, including an August 2006 rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House. During his speech, Siblani referred to then-President George W. Bush as a terrorist for supporting Israel in its summer of 2006 conflict against Hizballah in southern Lebanon. He then exhorted the crowd with the question "Who is the freedom fighter?" to which the crowd repeatedly responded, "Hizballah!"
It's not clear that the event would have generated much media attention had it been open to all outlets. And Siblani has a right to his opinion, of course. But it's less clear why organizers felt he deserved near exclusive access to agency leadership when some of those views are directly in conflict with the government when it comes to terrorist groups working against American interests.