Controversial blogger Pamela Geller to remove ads from New York City buses and subways after protest from Foley family
By Jessica Glenza
James Foley was beheaded by Islamic State militants in August 2014. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP
An anti-Islam ad depicting American journalist James Foley immediately before he was beheaded is being removed from New York City buses and subway stations, after a protest from his family. A picture of Foley from immediately before an Islamic State (Isis) militant beheaded him was one of two pictures used in an ad by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a rightwing group run by blogger Pamela Geller.
The text above Foleyâ€™s image read: â€œYesterdayâ€™s moderate is todayâ€™s headline â€¦ Itâ€™s not Islamophobia, itâ€™s Islamorealism.â€ The ads now show a militant dressed in camouflage holding an unidentifiable severed head.
â€œThe use of Mr Foleyâ€™s photo in your advertisement will cause profound distress to the Foley family,â€ said the Foley family attorney J Patrick Rowan in a letter to the AFDI. â€œThey do not want to see this photo exploited to attract funding and attention to your group.â€
He added: â€œThe advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat. This message is entirely inconsistent with Mr Foleyâ€™s reporting and his beliefs.â€
The groupâ€™s mission, according to Geller, is â€œto informâ€ Americans about â€œjihadâ€. The ads are widely regarded as Islamophobic by politicians and advocacy groups. Some say they could incite violence in a community thatâ€™s already experienced unrelated vandalism.
The ad formerly depicting Foley is one of six such ads purchased by AFDI. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which manages advertising in New York City public transportation, denied past ad-buys by Geller, saying the organizationâ€™s message demeaned a group because of religion. A federal court overturned the transit authorityâ€™s â€œno-demeaningâ€ ad standards, saying they violated the first amendment.
In a letter to the Foley family, Gellerâ€™s attorney wrote that ads were changed only because Geller understands the familyâ€™s pain.
Ads were altered, Gellerâ€™s attorney David Yerushalmi said, because Geller â€œunderstands and feels intimately the pain your clients are suffering.â€
She â€œfeels the pain of the hideous murders of many in her extended family by the Nazis, and with friends in Israel brutally affected by Islamic terrorism as a constant of daily life.â€
â€œFor this reason, and this reason alone, my clients have reached out as early as this morning to the New York and San Francisco transit authoritiesâ€™ respective advertising agencies to pull the displays depicting the captive Mr Foley,â€ said Yerushalmi in a letter to the Foley family.
â€œWe advised our clients there was absolutely no legal reason to do so.â€