The religion scholar Reza Aslan recently went on Fox News to discuss his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. As one might imagine for a debate about Jesus on the famously parochial news channel, the interviewer threw all kinds of sludge at Aslan, especially questioning his "bias" in writing such a book as a Muslim. A video of the exchange went viral, with headlines such as "Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?" A Washington Post blogger thundered for an apology to Aslan, amongst other disdain and outrage over Aslan's treatment. Consequently, Aslan's book shot to #1 on Amazon's best selling book list, propelled by the controversy.
Now I certainly have no evidence whatsoever to prove this, but Aslan's decision to go onto Fox to discuss his book, and the predictable brouhaha cum book publicity, strikes me more as a savvy public relations move designed to elicit exactly this result than an earnest attempt to discuss religious scholarship. He certainly knew what he was getting into by agreeing to be interviewed by the channel and the timing is concurrent with the promotion of his new book. He (or whoever manages his PR) likely knew that the 'bash on Fox for bigotry' narrative would be a too-tempting treat that would be devoured by the liberal media.
Well played, Aslan, well played.