How Fox News boosted a Muslim's book about Jesus

An antagonistic interview only serves to spike sales of Reza Aslan's 'Zealot,' pushing it to No. 1 on Amazon.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 30, 2013 12:48PM
Cover of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan (© Reza Aslan)Reza Aslan, a serious-minded religious scholar who happens to be a Muslim, has become a media folk hero after successfully fending off Fox News' attempt to paint him as some sort of anti-Christian bigot because he had the audacity to write a book about Jesus Christ. Now Aslan's book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," is a bestseller.

The publicity surrounding what Buzzfeed called the "most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done" has clearly helped feather Aslan's bank account. His publisher, Random House, told the The New York Times that sales of "Zealot" have surged by 35% in two days. According to the Los Angeles Times, Aslan's book is topping the bestseller list on Amazon (AMZN). It's No. 4 on The New York Times' list of hardcover nonfiction titles and No. 7 on the Publisher's Weekly hardcover nonfiction list.  

Another reason Aslan's book is selling well is that, in the opinion of many reviewers, it's very good. The New Yorker called it riveting. Kirkus Reviews added: "Why has Christianity taken hold and flourished? This book will give you the answers in the simplest, most straightforward, comprehensible manner." Author Jon Meacham added: "This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original."

Aslan certainly has an interesting background. He was born a Muslim and became a devout Christian before rediscovering the faith of his ancestors. Along the way, Aslan earned a doctorate in the sociology of religions from the University of California. Fox News anchor Lauren Green, whose job title, strangely enough, is religion correspondent, tried and failed to use Aslan's faith against him.

Green further embarrassed herself when Aslan pointed out to her that he mentioned on page 2 that he's a Muslim, which proved that she hadn't actually read "Zealot." The back-and-forth between Aslan and Green has already become a well-told tale. Aslan, though, deserves credit for maintaining his composure in a very uncomfortable situation. Even people who may not agree with his views couldn't help but like him personally. 

Aslan deserves an apology from Fox News and its corporate parent 21st Century Fox (FOXA), though one isn't likely to come.

Jonatnan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jul 30, 2013 2:27PM
Funniest thing I ever did see.  Why oh why do we have a country so full of people who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, TALKING.  Especially talking to people who know a million times more than they do.  Yet some people will still say, "haha, she sure put him in his place."  I am so thrilled this little side show stunt by fox propelled his book into a best seller when in all true reality it might have never gotten there if it weren't for FOX news.  I wonder if she has the level of experience or education to interview anyone about anything?
Jul 30, 2013 2:12PM

Some one at Fox news looked at the cover and title and decided they needed to go after this Muslim guy.  We will quickly cherry pick a few negative reviews and get this guy!

Obviously they never bothered to do any research about this  scholar or even bother to read the book.

Not only will this pathetic hack of a journalist keep her job Fox news will probably give her a raise and Bill O Reily  will praise her on his show.

Jul 30, 2013 5:09PM

Another truly cringeworthy Fox News interview with thinly disguised bias, handled by an interviewer who has clearly never bothered to read the book and doesn't know the subject.


I've completely lost count. Is this number three hundred something by now?...

Jul 30, 2013 9:02PM
"So far, Green has not spoken out about the ongoing online furor. But published an op-ed on Tuesday titled, "," in which Dan Gainor writes that, "The reason so many are after her is that she raised the uncomfortable question about why a Muslim was writing to deny the existence of the Christian faith."

This is in line with many of the negative reviews written by randoms on Amazon. Most professional of the book, however, don't claim that Aslan denies "the existence of the Christian faith."

Instead, the author offers different perspectives on what drove Jesus as a person, looking at how politics was more of a factor than we may have realized. He makes the case that Jesus was a revolutionary who was treated as an enemy of the state and, among other lightning rods for criticism, connects the dots of multiple historians' analyses about Jesus' birth with what the apostles said about it to suggest Jesus might not have been born in a manger in Bethlehem."

Let's keep the facts straight and compare apples to apples, Green's uninformed and ill prepared interview was dismal with a total absence of journalistic standards.  If Fox wanted to maintain any degree of professionalism, she should be terminated.  Because she didn't prepare and decided to wing it, she posed disparaging questions and posited statements of fact, which were incorrect.  Her supposition that a Muslim cannot write about Christianity BECAUSE he is a Muslim is illogical and absurd on the face of it.  Further, that a Muslim scholar with a doctorate in religion(s) and two decades of study on the subject should be questioned as to possible ulterior motives is even more ridiculous and insulting!  Green and Fox News owe Dr. Aslan a very public apology.  They have no decency and are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions and blatant stupidity.
Jul 30, 2013 8:42PM

When Albert Einstein was asked if he had to pick a religion, which would he choose? he then replied, "Buddhism"...


We must be in the age of the end of religions born in the middle east since Christianity, Islam and Judaism produce nothing but anger, fear, hate and violence...

Jul 30, 2013 2:31PM
Whenever a book generates controversy it will sell big. Remember when churches would buy up Harry Potter books to burn them? Every book bought by them was money in the pocket of the author and publishing company. I for one like books that talk about the historical significance about Jesus the person, not Jesus the magician an god incarnate
Jul 30, 2013 9:38PM
I wonder if Fox Noise channel bothered to ask one of their favorite authors, Jerome Corsi, whether he was an "expert" on Barack Obama since he wrote several ugly inaccurate scurrilous books about our President.  Isn't that out of Corsi's area of expertise since Corsi is a crazy, right-wing nut job and Barack Obama is a Democrat who happens to be President of the United States?  Guess that's okay for Corsi to write these books like he's an expert on the President, but this religious scholar couldn't  possibly know anything about Jesus because he's not a Christian.   Fair and balanced network??? Yeah, right!!
Jul 30, 2013 8:45PM
Fox (FAUX) News does more good for democrats and liberals than any other news source. They do such a great job of exposing the sheep-drone mentality of so called "conservative Christians", right-wingers, and repuklicans :-) They all attack what their collective LITTLE minds can't wrap around!!! Keep up the good work!!!!!
Jul 30, 2013 10:34PM

Voice of Reason,

 He said up front that the book was not about Christianity.  Since he also stated up front that he was Muslim, but he was writing about Jesus the man and his environment at the time he was crucified.

Jul 30, 2013 10:02PM

Fortunately I am an agnostic so I do not have to worry about which religion is the "real one". They are all of the same ilk and in looking at wars over the past 6,000 or 7,000 years, religions hardly qualify as peaceful, unbiased, sympathetic, or supportive of any other "faith".


As a famous individual once stated, man invented god, not god creating man. Man created god, in my opinion, as a crutch when things didn't go well or they had a need that was beyond their control.


But I do admire scholars such as Aslan who provide scholarly articles and books on various aspects of the history of portions of human time on this planet.

Jul 30, 2013 2:19PM

It's obvious that she hadn't read the book at the time of the interview but, in context, her first question didn't appear to be confrontational.  She asked first "to be clear, you're a Muslim, so why did you feel the need to write a book about Christianity?" He was definitely on his toes waiting to defend any reference to his Muslim faith in connection with a bias on the two religions.  He answered in a SOMEWHAT confrontational manner as though she was accusing him of something, however she handled the situation terribly by ignoring his answers and continuously asking absurdly stupid questions.  The confrontation could have been avoided if she wasn't so blindly persistent. 

Jul 30, 2013 10:27PM
I have not read Aslan's book as I have not seen it.  Therefore I cannot comment on the content.  Based on what he said in the interview, he was writing about Jesus the man and the environment he was in during the first Century, AD. If that is true and he is a proven scholar, then what he has to say would interest me whether I agreed with his point of view or not.  I often do not know the background of archeologists who write on their findings.  I go by what they found and the context of what they have to say.  Usually someone contradicts them in due time, at least. But the issue for me is piecing together the mysteries of the past since I am a historian.  I am a stickler for proof, tho.
I now understand that the news caster that was interviewing him also has an extensive background but she was rude anyway.
Jul 30, 2013 10:29PM

John Simon,

A I posted, I believe she does have a background in such studies.  But she is doing an interview, not a critique.  As a result we know less about the contents of the book than we might have had otherwise.

Jul 30, 2013 10:35PM
It's been official for years...FoxNews sucks! It's offensive how they pay certain people huge amounts of money to say anything to get in the way of progress in this country. This makes any type of real progress in this country improbable for the time being. As long as some people enjoy what they want to hear more than the actual reality of matters, it will be this way. It's actually nauseating writing about it if you can relate. Personally, I can't watch FoxNews without wanting to take a shower afterward.
Jul 31, 2013 1:55AM
Where was she to question why Bill O'Reilly, a Republican, wrote a book about JFK ("Killing Kennedy"), who is clearly a Democrat?  Per her reasoning, the topic had already been covered by real scholars and a Republican can only offer a biased viewpoint loaded with opinion and conjecture vs. actual facts.  But I doubt she read that book either - and it doesn't really fit the Fox M.O. to question their own when there are so many dissenting viewpoints across a variety of topics to attack for no apparent reason.  
Jul 30, 2013 10:19PM

Fox interviewer (Lauren Green)  has her degree from a cracker jack box. They are ALL "experts" at Fox. Fox is famous for trumping up false degrees on their anchors. I once looked up a woman who was a Fox regular commentator who got her degree from my alma mater, and went on and got a masters and phd from Columbia University. At first I was skeptical because I couldn't believe she went through the same curriculum and sounded like such an airhead.


Checked the Columbia University records, nothing on her by her present and/or maiden name. Aslan on the other hand has several degrees, and they question that, when all along Fox makes up degrees of their experts to skew a view in their wacked out favor. Since they do it all the time, they believe everyone must have a false degree. At Fox, any crazy story with some kind of white middle class fear-factor is "news". They want you to believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket. WE'VE COME FOR YOUR CHILDREN........


When you see them, call it out. Betcha you'll find alot. If impersonating an officer is a crime, what about impersonating an expert? Showering you creds with false degrees is nothing new, just ask any human resource manager. But you will never see a Fox News "expert" testify before any jury.



Jul 30, 2013 4:57PM
Jul 31, 2013 11:25AM
FOX is not concerned with professionalism, facts, or research, other than hiring the best production staff to make their programs look like regular news shows. They have made a comfortable living by making up stuff that fits their world view. Nobody gets more facts wrong, every day, but not by mistake. It's the old Joseph Goebbels philosophy of propaganda: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." This interview was less about the incompetence of the interviewer or her staff, and more about the marching orders she was given to make this guy look like an idiot. This probably works on most hapless interviewees, so I give Dr. Aslan a lot of credit for grace under fire. He came fully prepared. (And, by "fire," I mean the "close-your-eyes-pray-and-spray" variety which is all FOX can muster, given their indifference to reality.)
Jul 31, 2013 8:13AM
She came in the name of Jesus to stuff him and Reza hands-down stuffed her....that didn't sound right.
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