(CNN) — A scholar of world religions writes a book about Jesus. A woman, whose politician husband is caught in a sex scandal twice, decides to stand by him.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
But two giants of American mainstream media — one on the right, the other left-of-center — have come under criticism this week for interpreting the actions of the two through glasses tainted with ethnic slant.
A FoxNews.com interview segment was widely derided online when the anchor kept asking author Reza Aslan how a Muslim can write a book about Jesus.
While Aslan patiently explains — repeatedly — that it’s his scholastic expertise that qualifies him to do so, the anchor presses on with the same question.
On the other end, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd posited in an editorial that Huma Abedin continues to stay by the side of her philandering husband, Anthony Weiner, because of her alleged harsh upbringing in Saudi Arabia.
Aslan spoke to Piers Morgan on Monday night about his experience on Fox.
“Truly, I was kind of embarrassed,” he said. He felt uncomfortable having to repetitively parade his academic credentials by Fox anchor Lauren Green.
“You really come off as a jerk, when you do that,” said Aslan, who holds three degrees in religion. He has studied the life of Jesus for 20 years and calls him his “hero.”
Green seemed wholly uninterested in Aslan’s qualifications.
Her first question set the tone for the rest of the conversation, in which she spent nearly 10 minutes casting religious doubt on his motivations for writing the book.
“You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”
The video of the interview went viral, and Green’s reduction of Aslan to his religion triggered a backlash on social media.
“reza aslan’s interview on fox news was so painful to watch, he was basically being interviewed by a wall,” said @nimbaaa on Twitter.
Some lambasted Green for tenaciously skirting Aslan’s academic credentials, posting satirical comparisons, like this one on Twitter from @RadhikaMadhani:
“I’m a vet who has a Ph.D. in treating animals. Lauren Green: But you’re a human. Reza Aslan: But I have a Ph.D…”
“I have a Ph.D. in oceanography, I study the ocean. But you live on land. Yes, but my area of study is the ocean,” tweeted @lamaquinapls in the same vein.
Critics from established media joined in.
The Los Angeles Times called the interview “strange,” adding that Green gave Aslan the “proverbial third degree.” Slate.com called the interview “cringe-worthy.”
“Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” BuzzFeed asked in a headline.
Aslan told Morgan that he feels bad for Green. People get emotional, when academics write about their religion, fearing it is being attacked, he said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The most important people in my life are Christian — my wife and my mother,” he said.
Aslan was born a Muslim but felt inspired by Christianity in his youth and converted, as he explains in an essay he wrote for CNN. “When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus,” he wrote.
He later converted back to Islam, the religion of his ancestors.
The Fox interview and subsequent media coverage have garnered his book more attention. On Monday, it was the bestselling title on Amazon.
The New York Times’ ethnic slant was less belabored. It didn’t take up a 10-minute segment but instead just one single paragraph.
Huma Abedin is a longtime aide of Hillary Clinton.
Her husband, Anthony Weiner, has been caught twice sending explicit messages to women on social media. He was recently caught for the second time sending out lewd photos of himself.
Abedin pledged her love for him at a news conference.
Columnist Maureen Dowd explained Abedin’s decision this way: “Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet.”
First, Abedin is not exactly Saudi Arabian.
Her late father was from India; her mother from Pakistan. She was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but the family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was 2. She moved back to the United States to attend George Washington University.
She began her Washington career as a White house intern, before working in Hillary Clinton’s office, when Clinton was first lady.
Some could not help but see the irony in the same situation connecting both women, in light of the Monica Lewinsky affair during the presidency of Bill Clinton.
“Commentary on Huma Abedin’s ethnic reasons for standing by her man ignores the fact that her white boss Hillary Clinton did the same #Weiner,” @SaeedShah posted to Twitter.
Moroccan author and novelist Laila Lalami tweeted:
“Maureen Dowd: Huma Abedin stands by Anthony Weiner because she was raised in Saudi Arabia. Remind me, where was Hillary Clinton raised?”