Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer turned political comedian and commentator. Dean has appeared on numerous TV shows including CNN, Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Special, Current TV's "The Young Turks," ABC's "The View," MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes," NBC's "Rock Center," and ABC's "Nightline." Dean has written articles for CNN.comThe Huffington Post, BBC Radio and written jokes which have appeared on NBC's "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update" segment and CBS' "The Late, Late Show." He is also co-director of the soon to be released "The Muslims Are Coming!" Twitter: @deanofcomedy

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Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza

07 August 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

August 7, 2014

At a crowded Muslim-American event I attended Sunday in North Jersey, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, spoke about a range of issues. The audience, many of whom have supported Ellison since he was first elected in 2006, cheered many of his comments, but the biggest applause line came when Ellison said: “There’s absolutely no place for anti-Semitism in discussing Israeli policy.”

And that reaction is not atypical in my experience. On Saturday, I attended another large Muslim-American event in Long Island, New York, and that same sentiment was expressed there.

Muslims, like Jews, are a minority faith in America. Consequently, we have endured our share of vicious barbs launched by hate-group leaders, elected officials and even clergy members of other faiths. This has made us keenly aware of the pain of being demonized simply for our faith. That is why Ellison and I and the Muslims I know find it so despicable to see instances of anti-Semitism arise over the conflict in Gaza. 

This is especially the case in Europe. While the media have noted that in large part the rallies there opposing the Netanyahu government’s military action in Gaza have been peaceful, there has been an alarming amount of anti-Semitism on display.   

“Gas the Jews” and “Death to the Jews” have been heard at some rallies.  Firebombs have been thrown at synagogues in France and Germany, and Jewish-owned businesses in Paris have been vandalized.  As Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute explained to the International Business Times, “If you attack a synagogue, explain to me what this has to do with being concerned about Gaza. You just want to hurt the Jews.” He’s 100 percent correct.

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How Jon Stewart Made It Okay to Care About Palestinian Suffering

27 July 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

July 24, 2014

When I interviewed The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart two years ago for a documentary I co-directed, The Muslims Are Coming!, one of the questions I posed to the talk show host was: Do you think your show has had an impact on issues?

Surprisingly, Stewart responded “no.”  At first, my co-director, Negin Farsad, and I thought Stewart was being unduly modest. But he was actually being sincere. Stewart went on to list issues he had railed against for years—such as media sensationalism—and noted that nothing tangible had changed despite his best efforts.

But if that question were put to Stewart today, honesty would compel him to answer that his efforts have changed the way many who follow him now view one issue: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Specifically, Stewart has raised awareness about the human toll that this conflict has inflicted upon Palestinian civilians.

I first noticed Stewart’s efforts in January 2009 during the 22-day battle between Hamas and the Israeli military. That episode resulted in approximately 1,400 Palestinians being killed, of which human rights groups say 700 were civilians.

Stewart’s coverage included the segment “Gaza Strip Maul.” (The title summed up his POV.) In it, Stewart comically noted that the only thing Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is supporting Israeli’s bombing of Gaza, likening it to a Mobius Strip, which is an object with only one side to it.

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Obama Should Sue John Boehner

08 July 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

July 8, 2014

President Obama has really pissed off John Boehner this time. The Speaker’s orange face must have turned red, because he was so irate that he sat down—or at least a member of his staff did—and penned a 570-word diatribe published on Monday telling us why he must now spend our taxpayer dollars to sue Obama.

Did Boehner gave any specific reasons why he needed to employ the extraordinary remedy of suing a President—as opposed to seeking a political solution to a political issue? Nope. Instead Boehner offered up sweeping statements like, “The President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives through executive action.” (I wonder, if Boehner had been House Speaker in the 1980s, if he would have sued Ronald Reagan, who issued more than double the number of executive orders as Obama’s 182, coming in at 381?  Actually, I don’t.)

If Boehner files this lawsuit, I can only hope that Obama files a bunch of counterclaims.  I’d love to see Obama ask a court to compel Boehner to actually do some work, like bring immigration reform or raising the minimum wage up for a vote.

And Obama should definitely sue Boehner to reimburse us for the costs associated with the 54 times the GOP-controlled House has voted to repeal Obamacare. Per CBS’s 2013 calculations, those meaningless votes cost $52.4 million in taxpayer’s dollars.

Obama’s counterclaims would certainly rile up the Democratic base and score some great headlines. But these claims by Obama would be patently without merit. These are political issues that need to be resolved via the political process, not via the judiciary.

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When Bigotry Comes to Your Hometown

12 July 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

July 11, 2014

Typically, there isn’t a large police presence at a land-use hearing. But Wednesday night’s hearing was different. There was a palpable sense of concern by law enforcement. Why? Because Wednesday night, the board was deciding whether to approve the application of Muslims to convert an old church into a mosque.

The little town of Midland Park is a middle-class suburb of New York City, just north of my hometown of Paramus. It’s home to about 7,000 residents. And now this quiet township had also become the home of an ugly mosque controversy. Unlike the Ground Zero mosque protest of 2010, this fight didn’t make national headlines or become the lead story on the nightly news. Yet to the local residents and the Muslim-Americans who desperately wanted a place of worship, it was just as important, and emotions were just as high.

The small hearing room that accommodated 60 was packed with the faces of brown and white people, while others filled the hallways and adjacent conference rooms. For the next three hours, this hearing would be the big show in this small town. And it didn’t disappoint.

At the outset of the hearing, the attorney for the mosque, sensing that the room was filled with opponents, made a simple plea to the municipal board members: “This is not a public referendum, it’s a question of law.”

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Time for Dick Cheney to Take a Lie Detector Test!

19 June 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

June 19, 2014

Dick Cheney is back! On Wednesday an op-ed he co-wrote was featured in The Wall Street Journal, he appeared on Fox News and even released a YouTube video attacking Obama for his alleged failures in Iraq.

But I just don't get it. Why would Cheney reinsert himself into politics and even more astouding is why, of all things, would he ever discuss the Iraq war? Cheney had gotten away with it. He was never held accountable in any way for all the crap he said and did that misled Americans to support the Iraq war. Cheney was like "Kaiser Soze" from "The Usual Suspects." He made people believe somehow that he wasn't the bad guy.

We had even stopped talking about the profits Cheney reaped from the war due to his connections with Halliburton. Although just a few months ago, Senator Rand Paul did again repeat that claim.

And to be honest, my anger, and I bet many others as well, towards Cheney had subsided in the six years since he had left the government. Many of us, including myself, had forget how much we hated him. Things were going great for good ole Dick.  Not bad for a guy who left office with 74% of Americans disapproving of his job as Veep.

But seeing Cheney on TV brought that all back. The anger and the questions we had about Cheney and his role in the build up to the Iraq War had returned. Plus it made me realize that Cheney still looks a lot like Danny DeVito as the "Penguin" in "Batman Returns."

Cheney returning now to talk about the Iraq war makes no sense. He's like a guy who robbed a bank and got away with it. The police have even stopped searching for him. But then years later, he returns to the same bank he robbed and opens up a savings account so he can deposit the money he stole. You have to wonder if deep down Cheeny really wants to get caught.

For those who may have forgot or blocked it from their memory, how bad was Cheney when he was in power? I think Joe Biden summed it up well in his 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Sarah Palin with the remark: “Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history.” And I’d say Biden was being too kind.

When I think of Dick Cheney, all I can say is: I’ve never been lied to so much by someone I wasn’t dating. And I mean he lied – both by commission and by omission in leaving out information he should’ve told us during the run up to the Iraq War.

Who can forget Cheney’s continual invoking of the name "Saddam Hussein" and "9/11" in same sentence despite no evidence linking the two. But Cheney knew that by saying those two terms together over and over, soon the American public would believe that there was truly a connection making it easier for the Bush administration to garner support to attack Iraq.

And to Cheney’s credit, he was correct. In the run up to the Iraq war, polls found that 72 percent of Americans said it was either “very or somewhat likely” Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Of course, there was zero evidence to support this assertion.

But Cheney, plus others in the Bush administration, did more than just that. The US Senate’s bipartisan Select Committee on Intelligence conducted a five plus year investigation that yielded a 170-page report in 2008. The report concluded that Bush, Cheney and others in the administration had exaggerated the intelligence reports and discounted uncertainties when selling us the Iraq War.

Here are some example’s of Cheney’s statements made in the year before the Iraq war that were noted in the Senate report:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction There’s no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

“We now have irrefutable evidence that he [Saddam] has once again set up and reconstituted his program, to take uranium, to enrich it to sufficiently high grade, so that it will function as the base material for a nuclear weapon.”

However, as the Senate report clearly notes: “No intelligence agency ever assessed that Iraq had reconstituted nuclear weapons.”  (Emphasis added.)

Cheney also publicly asserted in 2003 that Iraq could develop nuclear weapons in one to three years. However, the Senate report explained that the majority view of the US intelligence community at that time was that barring Hussein acquiring key nuclear material abroad – challenging to say the least because that's when the West was closely watching him – the soonest he could develop a nuclear weapon was five to seven years.

Cheney also stated: “The Iraqi regime has been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents.” The reality was, of course, that no such weapons were ever found.

But maybe we are wrong. Perhaps Cheney knew something we didn’t? Maybe he had some special info hidden in his clandestine bunker?

I say lets give Cheney a chance to once and for all clear the air. Lets have the ultimate political reality show: “Dick Cheney versus The Lie Detector.”

We simply strap Cheney to a lie detector and ask him questions. It could even be on Fox News and Sean Hannity could host it. It would a huge ratings bonanza.

Finally, we will know with certainity whether Cheney was lying about Saddam and 9/11 connections, the WMD and everything else he claimed when selling us a war that left thousands upon thousands of Americans and Iraqis dead. And the body count is sadly still growing by the day.

I’m sure Fox News would be up for it. The only question is will Cheney have the courage to do it. So, what do you say, Dick?

WARNING: These Rap Lyrics Could Put You in Jail

07 March 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

March 7, 2014

“Anything you say can be used against you in the court of law.” These famous words are, of course, part of the Miranda warnings read by the police to suspects after being arrested.

But this warning apparently needs to be updated to advise people that not only will anything you say, but also any rap lyrics you write can be used against you, even if they were penned years before the crime at issue.

Those are the very facts of Vonte Skinner’s case currently pending on appeal before the New Jersey Supreme Court. Skinner was charged with the 2005 attempted murder of Lamont Peterson who had been shot several times at close range.

Earlier this week oral arguments were heard regarding whether Skinner’s rap lyrics were improperly admitted by the trial judge.  Here’s just a sample of 13 pages of Skinner’s lyrics read by the prosecution to the jury:

I love bringin’ heat and to beef melt ya’ Jeep. Two to your helmet and four slugs drillin’ your cheek to blow your face off and leave your brain caved in the street.

Yo, look in my eyes. You can see death comin’ quick. Look in my palms, you can see what I’m gunnin’ with. I play no games when it comes to this war shit. If death was a jacket, you would see how the floor fits.

You get the idea. Unsurprisingly, Skinner was convicted despite the weapon not being found and conflicting testimony identifying him as the shooter.

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Arizona’s Pro-Discrimination Law Won’t Stop With Gays

24 February 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

February 24, 2014

If the Republican-controlled Arizona state legislature has its way, gays could be thrown out of bars, restaurants, and hotels across the state.

Last week it passed a bill that would permit businesses to deny services to any person if doing so would substantially burden the business owners “exercise of religion.”  Why? Because the Bible condemns such homosexual unions. In essence, this measure would legally sanction discrimination against gay Americans by masquerading as a defense of religious freedom.

When I first read about this proposed law, my reaction was probably the same as many others: Are you f#@#ing kidding me?!  But they’re not. And even scarier is that Arizona isn’t the only state where Republicans are trying to to turn the Bible into the basis for American law. The Republican-controlled Kansas House of Representatives passed a similar bill two weeks ago, while Idaho and Utah have considered similar measures. 

For a moment, imagine you’re part of a same-sex couple at a restaurant in Arizona after this law went into effect. The owner walks up to you, and in front of other customers, announces that you and your partner will not be served simply because you’re gay. I can’t even imagine the embarrassment and frustration that would cause.  And the worst part is the owner would be legally protected to do just that.

Let’s put side the legal challenges to this bill for a moment—and there will be many. I have some practical questions about exactly how this law would work. So, here are a few:

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Coca-Cola Critics Have Never Heard of ‘E Pluribus Unum’

05 February 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

February 4, 2014

(The Daily Beast) At this point, we shouldn’t be shocked by the intolerance of some towards immigrants and other cultures.  But who could’ve predicted the outrage we saw over the Coca-Cola commercial that aired during last night’s Super Bowl?!

The commercial simply displayed the diversity of our great nation by showcasing people singing “America The Beautiful” in different languages—beginning in English and then Spanish before moving on to other languages. But it caused some to seriously freak out.

This tweet summed up the sentiments of many on the right: “Fuck that bullshit. This is America speak fucking English #ThanksObama#fuckcoke” Others labeled Coke as communists while others claimed that since a women in a hijab was featured in the commercial (who is actually a friend of mine), that Coke was supporting terrorism.

We even saw former Congressman Allen West—a Tea Party Darling—write: “This was a truly disturbing commercial for me.”

West explained that he knew he was supposed to accept the “politically correct” idea to “foster multiculturalism” but he wasn’t having any of it.  He then quoted approvingly a passage from Teddy Roosevelt who demanded that every immigrant “should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country” because “we have room for but one language here.”

And there was Todd Starnes—host of a Fox News radio show—who tweeted, “Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border. #americaisbeautiful.”

I get why these people are mad. In essence, the Coke commercial was the Ghost of Christmas Future providing them a glimpse of an America that features even more people speaking languages other than English, practicing other faiths than their own and celebrating cultures they don’t understand. That scares the crap out of them.

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Can the GOP Get Out of Its Own Way?

28 January 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

January 28, 2014

(The Daily Beast) Another day, another idiotic comment by a Republican—or at least that’s what it seems like. At this point I have to wonder if the advisors hired by the GOP actually hate the Republican Party.

Could it be that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus accidentally hired Democratic consultants? Or perhaps certain Republicans have a fear of success, so they are subconsciously sabotaging their own party? Of course, there is the possibility that what many of us view as cringeworthy statements are actually the views held by most in the GOP.

Whatever the reason, the Republican Party in the last month alone has churned out more jaw dropping sound bytes than Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus combined. And that’s no easy feat.

At this point, being the RNC chair means always having to say you’re sorry. Or at least being called upon to contextualize and explain outlandish remarks made by some in the Republican Party.

And the biggest irony is that this is supposed to be the “new and improved” Republican Party thanks to the famed “Growth and Opportunity Project” released last year. This autopsy report was billed as the GOP’s treasure map to electoral gold with helpful hints for Republicans to improve their messaging so that they could attract more women, minorities, the young, etc. Clearly, some Republicans haven’t read the report—or perhaps some just don’t know how to read.

In any event, lets take a quick a look at the Republican gaffes that have occurred in the last month alone:

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The Loud Truth About Abortion Protesters

23 January 2014 Published in Blog

By Dean Obeidallah

January 22, 2014

(The Daily Beast) Be a man-stop your woman from killing your baby!”

“Mommy, don’t kill me!”

“You are going to be the father of a dead baby!”

These were just some of the comments being screamed Saturday by protesters standing outside an abortion clinic I visited.  These statements, and others like them, were being directed at women and their male companions as they approached the clinic— often by people holding signs that read, “Babies are murdered here” or “Danger! Baby killing zone.”

Was this clinic in Texas, Mississippi, or another Red State with a long history of opposing a women’s right to choose? Nope, it was in the blue state of New Jersey and in the very blue city of Englewood, a municipality that President Obama carried in 2012 with over 70 percent of the vote and where local Republicans didn’t even field a candidate to oppose the reelection of the Democratic mayor (PDF).

So why did I visit an abortion clinic for the first time in my life? Because I was confused as to what is the real face of the people gathered outside of abortion clinics.

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told us that these people are not anti-abortion “protesters.”  Instead, he glowingly described them as, “counselors” who wanted “to comfort these [pregnant] women” by speaking to them, “quietly and in a friendly manner.”

Scalia offered these remarks during oral arguments in a case challenging the legality of a Massachusetts law that imposes a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics which anti-abortion protesters are prohibited from invading.  The Justice implied that a buffer zone was not needed because the people outside these clinics were not angry protesters, but rather a collection of kindly “sidewalk counselors.”

But something wasn’t adding up.  Katie Klabusich, who has volunteered for years escorting pregnant women into clinics, told me a far different story.  She spoke of numerous incidents where anti-abortion protesters would scream in the face of pregnant women in the hopes of shaming and bullying them to not enter the clinic.

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