Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer 6/29/2001 - Sami Al Arian son expelled from WH meeting ?

Q Ari, Muslim leaders representing more than -- American Muslims in this country were invited to a meeting here at the White House yesterday with the community and faith-based initiative. However, they walked out of that meeting because one of their members was expelled and accompanied by security after being allowed in and cleared for security reasons.

Now, this member is the son of Dr. Samuel Arian and his uncle is Dr. Mazen al Najjar Mr. John DiIulio, the director of office, he described it as guilt by association. I hasten to add, neither of these two men were found guilty by any court in this country of any wrongdoing. Now, David Bonior has protested very strongly and issued a statement on the subject. Would the White House apologize to the American Muslim community?

MR. FLEISCHER: Mr. Bonior is right to complain. The President is very upset about this. The President is very concerned that an action was taken that was wrong and inappropriate, and the President apologizes for it on behalf of the White House.

I want to say that the Secret Service has one of the most difficult jobs in the government, and they do it on an extraordinarily sound and good basis. And everybody who works in this White House is grateful to the Secret Service for the good work they do. In this one instance, the Secret Service made a mistake. They've acknowledged it; they have said so. They will continue to say so. And the President is concerned about it to the point where he does apologize.

Q Ari, on that same subject, some of the Muslim leaders complained that what they sense as snubs or insults to them have begun with, I guess, the cancellation of an Eid holiday observance, cancellation of Vice President Cheney's briefing last Friday for the American Muslim Council, as well as Dr. DiIulio's failure to appear at this briefing, at which the person was ejected. Is there a pattern of snubbing Muslim leaders for perceived or unperceived reasons?

MR. FLEISCHER: No. And there have been many other meetings that have gone forward just as planned. But in the case, for example, that you mentioned about the Vice President's meeting, I think everybody understood that that was a matter dealing with airplanes and logistics and travel time that were beyond the control of the Vice President. And so he was not able to make that meeting, and he wishes he could have.

But this White House has engaged in extensive outreach, all part of the faith-based and community initiative that I began this meeting with. I said that the President was very pleased that the House took the action it did to support a program that can help the nation's mosques, receive help from the federal government to help them complete the good works that they do on behalf of people in their community.

Q Back on the Vice President. Obviously, the energy report...

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer


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