US TV station apologises for inappropriate question to Muslim lieutenant governor candidate

WJLA says it contacted candidate Sam Rasoul after TV debate

A presenter for US TV station WJLA has been accused of asking an Islamophobic question during a televised political debate. 
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A TV station in Arlington, Virginia, apologised for a question put to a Muslim candidate for state lieutenant governor that many people considered Islamophobic.

Sam Rasoul, a member of the Virginia state assembly, was one of six candidates taking part in a debate organised by the Virginia Democratic Party and broadcast by TV station WJLA on Tuesday.

David Lucas, a news anchor at WJLA, asked Mr Rasoul about a Washington Post report that said his campaign was raising the most funds "thanks in large part to out-of-state donors connected to Muslim advocacy groups".

"There's nothing wrong with that, but that was the case," Lucas told Mr Rasoul.

"Talk a little bit about your fundraising efforts. Can you assure Virginians, if you’re elected, you’ll represent all of them, regardless of faith and beliefs?”

Mr Rasoul, a Democrat, replied that he was "proud to have a campaign that’s 100 per cent funded by individuals, with a majority of contributors coming from Virginia”.

“As your next lieutenant governor, you can count on me as a decisive, tie-breaking vote to ensure the interests of the people are represented more than any other special interests,” he said.

Many social media users said such a question would not have been put to a non-Muslim candidate.

Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group in Washington, said Lucas "singled out a Muslim candidate and questioned his loyalty".

"This is an anti-Muslim smear and he must apologise,” the group tweeted.

A few hours later, WJLA issued an apology.

“During an important, relevant exchange related to campaign finance during the debate, our anchor, Dave Lucas, asked an inappropriate and disrespectful question to delegate Sam Rasoul,” the station said.

“We have reached out directly to delegate Rasoul’s campaign and expressed our sincere apology for this question and for the impact of these words.”

A presenter on WJLA's evening news broadcast after the debate echoed those sentiments.

WJLA's parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, has often been accused of forcing local stations to run content with a conservative bias.

The US media company, which operates 186 TV stations in 87 markets, has in the past been praised by former US president Donald Trump.