Law Professors

Pitt law dean will no longer appear on TV station over alleged bias against Middle Eastern prof

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A University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor says he was passed over as a guest on a local CBS affiliate news show, because he is Iraqi-American and a Muslim. And in the wake of these allegations William M. Carter Jr., dean of the law school and a constitutional scholar, has said that he will no longer appear on KDKA-TV programming.

Haider Ala Hamoudi, whose academic work centers on Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, was suggested as a guest for KDKA last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, after a producer asked a school spokeswoman for professors to speak on a TV panel about the initial travel ban order issued by President Donald Trump’s administration.

According to Hamoudi, who later contacted the station, the producer asked a school spokeswoman “what I ‘was.’ ” The spokeswoman listed his academic-related titles, Hamoudi wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper, and he says the producer responded that she could not have a Middle Eastern man on the panel.

His email also says the producer, who was putting together a KD/​PG Sunday Edition program, asked the law school spokeswoman for two specific Pitt professors, both of whom are white men, according to Hamoudi, and neither have an immigration law background.

The station maintains that the producer was looking for immigration lawyers, and ultimately, two immigration lawyers were selected as guests for the Feb. 12 program.

“We are surprised and disappointed that the Pitt Law School and professor Hamoudi allege that we demonstrated religious bias when we declined to have him participate. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Anne Linaberger, the station’s news director, wrote in an email to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Hamoudi, who worked with the U.S. State Department to help Iraq draft its new constitution, doesn’t buy it. He told the paper that in recent months, he’s seen people more willing to openly express bias.

When contacted by the ABA Journal, Hamoudi mentioned a talk he recently gave about the travel ban covered by Pennyslvania’s Indiana Gazette.

“It’s not a subject with which I am unfamiliar,” he wrote in an email. “None of this is at all consistent with the explanation that KDKA has offered.”

KDKA has not responded to the ABA Journal’s request for comment.

Carter addressed the flap with the news station in an email to faculty. “Speaking only for myself, I believe that these kind of ignorant, biased, identity-based assumptions and statements have no place in the operations of any reputable media organization—whether or not they were intend[ed] to offend—and I am appalled to hear of them … Withholding my own interactions with this station is admittedly a very small drop in a very large ocean, but it is one small act of solidarity.”

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