Virginia Democrats: WJLA Broke Debate Rules with Anti-Muslim Question

WASHINGTON, DC — The Democratic Party of Virginia made clear that they were “sickened” by an anti-Muslim debate question asked to a Muslim candidate and explained that WJLA broke the rules by asking the question at all. The letter—sent by Chairwoman Susan Swecker to Muslim Advocates on Thursday, June 10—was a response to a letter sent to the party and news station WJLA by 10 Muslim elected officials from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia demanding answers about the offensive debate question asked to Virginia Del. Sam Rasoul.

In their response, the party cast blame for the anti-Muslim debate question squarely on WJLA and debate moderator Dave Lucas, saying “If we had known this was their intention, we would have cancelled the debate.” After the debate, WJLA issued multiple apologies that placed the blame on Lucas for asking the question without making clear that their debate team and company were also responsible. Dave Lucas has not said anything and has blocked Muslim Advocates on Twitter. 

“Ten Muslim elected officials in the DMV spoke out because the area’s Muslim community needs to know that the institutions claiming to the serve them, like their news stations, aren’t promoting anti-Muslim animus,” said Muslim Advocates Public Advocacy Director Scott Simpson. “We appreciate the Democratic Party of Virginia’s genuine clarification and strong response standing up to this anti-Muslim bigotry in the Commonwealth. We also appreciate that WJLA recognizes that there has been harm done by Dave Lucas, but the station refuses to explain how this anti-Muslim debate question was conceived, approved and asked by their employees and Mr. Lucas has continued to be silent.”

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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.