CNN has canceled Believer With Reza Aslan, a series about faith, hosted by the Iranian American religious scholar. In a statement issued Friday, the network said, “CNN has decided to not move forward with production on the acquired series Believer with Reza Aslan. We wish Reza and his production team all the best.”
This comes after aggressive conservative backlash to a couple of tweets from Aslan about President Donald Trump. The best-selling author of Zealot and No god but God described Trump as “a piece of shit” and “not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency,” but also “an embarrassment to humankind.,”
Aslan was responding to Trump’s reaction to the deadly terrorist attacks in London last week. “We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse,” the president tweeted.
Aslan later deleted the “piece of shit” tweet and apologized on Sunday to his followers: “I should have used better language to express my shock and frustration at the president’s lack of decorum and sympathy for the victims of London. I apologize for my choice of words.”
On Friday, Aslan issued a statement saying that while he was “disappointed in the decision” he understood that “CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news outlet.”
This past month has seen CNN struggling to deal with hosts and commentators expressing their personal political beliefs on public platforms. Comedian Kathy Griffin, who long co-hosted a New Year’s Eve show on CNN, was let go last week after a photo circulated on social media of Griffin holding a severed and bloodied head resembling Trump.
Following the election of Trump, the network is trying its best to appear as nonpartisan as possible. Barbara Levin, CNN’s vice president of communications, defended the network after its rival MSNBC rose to the top in primetime viewership this year, due largely to Rachel Maddow’s massive audience.
In an email to PR Week, Levin wrote that it had “a tremendous advantage to be the only non-partisan cable news channel, particularly during serious news times such as these, where viewers seek reliable and accurate information, not spin and ideology.”