American Freedom Defense Initiative President Pamela Geller took to two morning news programs Monday to defend a cartoon contest and art exhibit held for depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as being held in defense of free speech, but outspoken real estate mogul Donald Trump said it looked to him like "she's just taunting everybody."
The event was the site of violence Sunday, when Texas police shot dead two gunmen
who opened fire on Sunday outside the exhibit, echoing past attacks or threats over art depicting Muhammad, including the deadly attacks in the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The motives behind the shooting haven't been officially announced, but one of the gunmen identified at Sunday's attack was Elton Simpson, an Arizona man previously the target of a terror investigation.
"I watched Pam prior, and it looks like she's just taunting everybody," said Trump. "What is she doing? Drawing Muhammad and it looks like she's taunting people."
And while he called the violence "disgusting," Trump said he wonders "what are they doing drawing Muhammad? Isn't there something else they can draw? They can't do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas and on Muhammad?"
He said he has to question why Geller would organize such an event.
"You know, I'm one that believes in free speech, probably more than she does," said Trump. "What's the purpose of this? She's taunting them...I don't know, maybe she likes risk. What the hell is she doing?"
Geller appeared for interviews both on Fox and CNN, and insisted on both networks that the attacks were "a violent assault on freedom of speech."
"We entered a new era last night," she told Fox & Friends, "because this wasn't Paris or Copenhagen, this was Texas. There were 300 freedom lovers in that audience listening to Geert Wilders, and the winner of the drawing contest who was a former Muslim. It was an art exhibit showing the pictures of Muhammad all throughout the past 1,400 years."
She continued that offensive speech now needs protection.
"Are we to believe if something offends you, if something insults you, that we should go out and kill people and that way we can get our way?" she said. "Because that's really the implication here. I'm not responsible for the violence conducted by others."
Geller said she and other organizers had to spend "upward of $50,000" for security for the event, which featured Geert Wilders, a polarizing Dutch politician and anti-Islamic campaigner who is on an al-Qaida hit list, among the speakers at the event.
But she does not believe either she or Wilders were being targeted, but instead the attack was on freedom of speech.
"I'm sure the president will take to the airwaves to assure us the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam," said Geller. "The fact of the matter is, this is the Sharia. They mean to impose it...people better wake up and start taking back their freedom."
She vowed her group will hold future events, as "we will not abridge our freedom of speech in order to not offend savages," a statement she repeated on CNN
and that led to a war of words between herself and CNN reporter Alisyn Camerota.
"The very idea that if something offends me, or I'm insulted by something I'll kill you and somehow this is OK with members of the elite media, and academia, is outrageous," Geller told Camerota.
Geller argued she criticized only Muslims who kill over their beliefs, and that she is "anti-jihad, I am anti-Sharia. You, by saying I paint with a broad brush, are saying all Muslims support jihad. Alisyn, you sound very Islamophobic."
Geller's American Freedom Defense Initiative has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and has sponsored anti-Islamic advertising campaigns in transit systems across the country.
She said on Fox and CNN that she chose the Garland venue because it was where American Muslim leaders held a conference on combating Islamophobia a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Watch the video here.
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