CNN will not be continuing production on its acquired series Believer, the non-fiction show hosted by Iranian-American author and religious scholar, Reza Aslan. This is due to a profanity-laden tweet that Aslan shared on social media targeting President Donald Trump earlier this month.
In Aslan’s tweet, he had called Trump “a piece of s—” and expressed disappointment over Donald Trump’s use of the terrorist attacks in London to promote his “travel ban” on certain people coming from specific countries in the Middle East.
“This piece of s— is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind,” said Aslan on his tweet that has since been deleted. He had also called Trump a “man baby that must be ignored in times of crisis.”
Reza later apologized, but CNN, though “pleased” with the apology, has gone through its own share of accusations for promoting biased content. The network decided that it is best to go with its decision to cut ties with the Believer host.
“Obviously, I am very disappointed in this decision. Believer means a great deal to me and to the countless viewers it’s reached. Its message of religious tolerance and exploration is extremely important right now,” Aslan said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful to CNN for giving me the opportunity to launch the show and to amplify my voice on their network. I am especially grateful to the legion of people within the Turner organization who worked so hard to make the show a hit series.”
“However, in these politically charged times, the tenor of our nation’s discourse has become complicated, and I recognize that CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news outlet,” Reza further said.
“Similarly, I need to honor my voice. I am not a journalist. I am a social commentator and scholar. And so I agree with CNN that it is best that we part ways. I look forward to partnering with another platform in the future to continue to spread my message. I wish CNN all the best.”
CNN has faced backlash in the past with other incidents of hosts and talents expressing political opinions. Just last month, CNN fired Kathy Griffin, announcing that she would no longer be part of its annual New Year’s Eve broadcast. This announcement was made after Griffin’s controversial photo shoot where she held a mask resembling Donald Trump’s severed head. The New Year’s Eve coverage is a decade-long tradition, which she hosts from Times Square with Anderson Cooper.
“I am not afraid of Donald Trump. He’s a bully,” Griffin declared saying that “it was quite clear to me” that Trump and his family “are trying to use me as a distraction.” She further said the president “picked the wrong redhead.”
CNN, being non-partisan, is trying to maintain a middle-of-the-road stance to its viewers. Meanwhile, its rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC have allowed partisan opinion in their programming lineup.
After Donald Trump suggested that CNN offered “fake news,” the network conducted an internal brand survey to find out whether the president’s remarks made a lasting impression on its viewers.
“There has been no diminution whatsoever in the CNN Brand,” network president Jeff Zucker said after the results came out. “It’s as strong as it’s ever been. It’s incredibly trusted and we see no impact whatsoever in all those attacks on the CNN brand.”
According to Variety, Aslan has been considered as a notable addition to CNN’s non-fiction series. Reza co-founded BoomGen Studios, a production centered on content from and about the Middle East, in 2006. He is also the author of best-sellers such as Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.
Believer was about to enter Season 2 on CNN. Reza Aslan shared that he is looking forward to partnering with another network to continue work on Believer. In previous episodes, the host had examined various faiths and doctrines around the world. He had even spent time with a group of Indian cannibals who ate cooked human brain tissue.
[Featured Image by Araya Diaz/Getty Images]