World & Nation

James Foley image removed from controversial New York ad campaign

New York MTA
A man exits a subway in New York. The image of journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by Islamist militants, will be removed from a series of ads slated to appear in subway stations and on buses through the city.
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

A photo of an American journalist beheaded by Islamic State militants will be removed from an ad campaign in New York that some have castigated as anti-Islam.

Sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the ad shows a picture of journalist James Foley kneeling before a militant prior to his execution. Part of a $100,000, month-long campaign that began Monday on Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses and inside subway stations,  the ad asserts that “It’s not Islamophobia. It’s Islamorealism,” suggesting the religion’s adherents are extremists.

In a letter sent to the group last weekend, J. Patrick Rowan, an attorney for Foley’s parents, asked that his photo be taken off the ads because, “having lived in and reported from communities in which nearly everyone was of Muslim faith, [Foley] had great respect for the religion and those who practiced it.

“The advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat,” Rowan added.


Responding to the Foleys, an attorney for Pamela Geller, the initiative’s founder, said the group would remove the image out of compassion for the family’s grief.

The letter from Geller’s attorney, noting the group’s 1st Amendment rights, stood behind the ad campaign.

“The ads convey a stark reality and a brute fact: Islamic terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Taliban ... have access and influence among the ‘moderate’ Muslim communities around the globe,” wrote Geller’s attorney.

The ads will continue to run but without Foley’s picture, the group said.


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, faith leaders and advocacy groups have strongly condemned the ad campaign on Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses.

MTA, a state-run agency, offers a disclaimer on the ads, noting it does not support the viewpoints expressed.

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