“Fla. Televangelist Loses Show After Muslims Complain,” from WFTV:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Christian televangelist who harshly criticizes Islam and other religions said Friday that his late-night program is being pulled off the air because of pressure from a Muslim group.
Earlier this month, officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations wrote a letter to the TV station’s owners asking for an investigation of the show it broadcasts, “Live Prayer with Bill Keller.”
In a May 2 broadcast, the televangelist said Islam was a “1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell” and called the Prophet Mohammed a “murdering pedophile.” He also called the Koran a “book of fables and a book of lies.”
None of what is quoted rises to the level of incitement to violence or other illegal activity. Additionally, network officials should ask themselves what sort of precedent they are setting, and if they would now forbid strongly worded criticisms of any religion.
Council officials asked for equal air time for Florida Muslims to counter Keller’s comments, but never got the chance.
The hourlong show, which airs nightly at 1 a.m., is broadcast on WTOG-TV, a CBS-owned station that airs the CW network locally. WTOG station manager Laura Caruso said the decision to end Keller’s contract was a programming one, made by station executives and the televangelist.
But after speaking with CBS executives, the Islamic group claimed credit for Keller’s demise. His last broadcast will be Aug. 31.
“They really based their decision upon our letter,” said Ramzy Kilic, the group’s civil rights coordinator. “They really did not know that Bill Keller was involved with this kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Keller said his “Bible-based” message hasn’t changed in the five years the program has aired.
“(CAIR) intimidated the folks in New York, and the folks in New York caved in,” Keller said.
Keller said he is starting a new morning TV show on another Tampa Bay area
station that will debut Sept. 3.