The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Pamela Geller as "the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead." Others call her far worse.
A former associate publisher of the New York Observer, she is the founder, editor and publisher of the conservative AtlasShrugs.com website and president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group that will apparently soon have one of its controversial ads plastered on the side of HART buses cruising through Tampa.
As CL reported on Monday, AFDI submitted eight different ads to HART back in the fall, and the Hillsborough County transit agency has agreed to run one of them. But attorney David Smith says HART will not run the seven others submitted, though he would not discuss publicly why. He did tell the HART board he expects AFDI to sue the agency, as it has done with previous agencies that declined to accept its advertising.
The AFDI ads are a response to the Council on American-Islamic Relations' "My Jihad" campaign that ran on city buses in some of the same U.S. cities where AFDI has attempted to place its ads.
On Monday night Geller responded to some questions posed by CL via email. Here's that Q&A:
CL: HART has agreed to run one of the ads that you submitted but apparently won't run the others. Their attorney spoke today as if it was almost a fait accompli that you will sue unless they run all of the ads. Is that a fair assessment?
Pamela Geller: Yes.
CL: How many local transit agencies are your ads running in?
PG: We have run ads all over the country: in New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, and many other cities.
CL: I know that New York City's transit agency lost to you in court when they tried to stop running the ads. What's your record in terms of the courts?
PG: In trial court, we're 2-0 (NY/DC = win; Mass = not yet a loss because we only lost on preliminary injunction). Refusals to run followed by capitulation/running ads after we threaten to sue (non-judicial victories) = 3 (Miami, Chicago, SF). Matters still pending in trial court in SMART (Detroit); King County (Seattle).
CL: When were the first ads proposed? I believe it was in 2012, but can you tell me when and where?
PG: The very first ads we ever did were in Florida - our "Leaving Islam?" campaign in support of Rifqa Bary and as a counter to ads running on buses proselytizing for Islam.
CL: What is the main message you want to get across with your ad campaign?
PG:Our ads are all dedicated to defending the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for all people before the law.
CL reached out to Hassan Shibly with CAIR-Florida for his comments on Geller. He referred to CAIR's website documenting some of the things that Geller has said and done over the years.
"In short, Geller is one of the most hateful human beings on the planet who seeks attention by promoting misinformation, lies, fear, and hatred against Islam and Muslims," Shibly wrote to CL via email. "Her hateful rhetoric has inspired Anders Breivik's terrorist attack in Norway which killed dozens of Children, which she also justified. Enough said!"