Conservative talk show host, former Houston City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Berry opened his mouth and, once again, hurt the image of the City of Houston. On his show last week Berry was answering a caller that he described as “belligerent” who asked about a planned Islamic Cultural Center that was recently approved for construction near ground zero.
Instead of responding that he feels that opening a Cultural Center so close to the site of the World Trade Centers might allow for dialogue on Islam, the perceptions of Islam in the west as well as extremism and fundamentalism in faith; Berry, in his continued attempt to elevate American discourse, responded to the caller by saying,“I’ll tell you this — if you do build a mosque, I hope somebody blows it up.”
He went on to contribute to the ongoing debate about where this country is headed and what it means to be an American by adding, “I hope the mosque isn’t built, and if it is, I hope it’s blown up, and I mean that.” Berry’s comments have, of course, generated heat from the progressive community. However, Geoff Berg, host of KPFT’s Partisan Gridlock, has taken a different approach.
Berg is stating that Berry is only cynically portraying a bigot in order to boost ratings. I’ll leave whether or not Berry is portraying an ignorant racist simply to increase listeners alone, I will remind readers that this isn’t the first time that Berry’s big mouth has gotten him home water. In March 2007, when he was still a sitting City Councilman, Berry decided to wade in on the rights of Native Americans.
With his trademark nuance, Berry decided to resolve the vexing problem of what should our role and responsibility to the Native Americans be by saying, “We need to stop wasting all this time and energy apologizing to the American Indian, which we continue to do…we give them casinos, we give them special licenses, we give them special scholarships and why I don’t understand.”
He went on to make his case as an indigenous rights reformer by adding, ” we conquered them, that’s history - Hello ? You got to be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact , that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. Lets just call it what it is, they lost a war.” The scary part of Berg’s theory that Berry isn’t a racist and that he only makes racist comments to attract an audience is that Berry is rewarded for this and that people actually agree with him.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in favor of the construction of the Cultural Center. New York Magazine even found the idea of Berry advocating for the destruction of the cultural center to be humorous its idiocy. All I can offer is this: Mr. Berry please keep your mouth shut from now on. You are making the rest of us look bad. Here we are trying to make Houston a place that people want to come to, a place where people from all over the world and from every faith will feel welcome and want to spend money.We’re trying to make this city a place where cool people will be able to do cool things with other cool people without getting any shit for the way they look, who they want to go to bed with or who they voted for. And then you go and say something like this. Something that makes us all look bad and now the cool kids in NYC or LA or Portland will go on thinking we’re a bunch of rednecks.
Thanks Mike, no really. I mean that. We’ve worked so hard to be taken seriously as a civilized city. We have our own indie rock stars with Indian Jewelry, we gave hip-hop the idea to chop and screw the music, we got a music festival that doesn’t feature Clint Black, hell we even have a lesbian mayor. All of which will mean nothing if people like you keep shooting their mouths off about things you know nothing about and have no business commenting on. If the people in New York want an Islamic Cultural Center next to ground zero that’s their business.
Hell, if they want to build a 20-foot-tall, red, white and blue dong in the middle of ground zero and cover it wit a banner that reads: “NYC home to more sodomites than the rest of the country put together” that’s their business too. Stick to talking about Houston so the rest of the country can stick to ignoring you and we can stick to improving this city’s image.