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Fact Check: Rick Scott and the mosque

Rick Scott is certainly one who knows a provocative ad.

The wealthy Republican former hospital executive, running for governor in Florida, who was behind the group Conservatives for Patients Rights that ran anti-health-care legislation ads, is the first candidate since President Obama spoke Friday to go up with an anti-New York mosque ad.

There is one line in the ad (which we reported on in an earlier post) that jumped out: “The truth: the leader of the Ground Zero mosque refuses to admit that Muslim extremists use terror tactics.”

Is this true?

First Read contacted the Scott campaign to see what they were basing this on for its ad. Communications Director Jennifer Baker directed NBC News to a New York Post story as its “back up.” Baker highlighted this first line of the June 19, 2010 story: “The imam behind plans to build a controversial Ground Zero mosque yesterday refused to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization.”

That is quite different, however, than saying Faisal Abdul Rauf, imam at the Downtown Manhattan mosque Masjid al-Farah, “refuses to admit that Muslim extremists use terror tactics." Scott did not say in the ad that the imam believed Hamas wasn’t a terrorist group. That statement, by the way, would be a stretch, based on the full New York Post article.

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who holds a degree in physics from Columbia University and a master’s in Plasma Physics from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, according to online biographies, is quoted as saying on a radio program: "Look, I'm not a politician. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. … There was an attempt in the '90s to have the UN define what terrorism is and say who was a terrorist. There was no ability to get agreement on that. … I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.”

First Read reached out for a response from the Cordoba Initiative, the group behind the proposed mosque in New York. The imam is chairman and founder of Cordoba.

We will update when we hear back, but Scott’s claim is based on something unrelated -- or quite loosely associated at best.

*** UPDATE *** Here's a follow up from Baker in an e-mail:

"Hamas is a US Department of State-identified terrorist group. And Iman Abdul Rauf refused to condemn Hamas for terror tactics. Here is the State Department list of terror organizations that includes Hamas. And to close the circle, here is AP today on Hamas saying the mosque must be built. To make this as clear as possible, Hamas is the Muslim extremist group the ad references. They blow up women and children with suicide bombs."

First Read's response:

"But to follow the logic chain here: the imam would have had to have been asked if he believed Hamas or Muslim extremists 'use terror tactics.' He wasn't asked that, according to the NYP story you sent along. Not to mention the full context of what he said on Hamas was him saying: 'Look, I'm not a politician. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. … There was an attempt in the '90s to have the UN define what terrorism is and say who was a terrorist. There was no ability to get agreement on that. … I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.'

"Nonetheless, the ad would have been more truthful had it said simply that the imam refused to say Hamas was a terrorist group. As it stands, it takes some leaps of logic."