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25 August 2007

Televangelist Critical of Islam Dumped

f47422b9a91404ac49b036cae2af91da.jpgST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A Christian televangelist who harshly criticizes Islam and other religions said Friday that his late-night program is being pulled off the air because of pressure from a Muslim group

In a May 2 broadcast, the televangelist said Islam was a "1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell" and called the Prophet Muhammad a "murdering pedophile." He also called the Quran a "book of fables and a book of lies."

Council officials asked for equal air time for Florida Muslims to counter Keller's comments, but never got the chance.

The hourlong show, which airs nightly at 1 a.m., is broadcast on WTOG-TV, a CBS-owned station that airs the CW network locally. WTOG station manager Laura Caruso said the decision to end Keller's contract was a programming one, made by station executives and the televangelist.

Earlier this month, officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations wrote a letter to the TV station's owners asking for an investigation of the show it broadcasts, "Live Prayer with Bill Keller."But after speaking with CBS executives, the Islamic group claimed credit for Keller's demise. His last broadcast will be Aug. 31.

"They really based their decision upon our letter," said Ramzy Kilic, the group's civil rights coordinator. "They really did not know that Bill Keller was involved with this kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric."

Keller is slated to begin a new morning TV show on another Tampa Bay area station, WTTA, on Sept. 3. A telephone message left with WTTA on Friday evening was not immediately returned.

Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa office of CAIR, said the council is weighing its options on what to do regarding Keller's apparent new employment.

"Obviously we have concerns," Bedier said. "He's more of a liability with stations than an asset."

Keller said his "Bible-based" message hasn't changed in the five years the program has aired.

"(CAIR) intimidated the folks in New York, and the folks in New York caved in," Keller said.

Keller, a regular guest on satellite radio's Howard Stern Show, is critical of many religions. He regularly refers to the Mormon church as a cult, and told readers of his online column that a vote for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, "is a vote for Satan." That drew a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service from the watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which contends Keller's nonprofit ministry should be stripped of its tax-exempt status over his comments regarding a political candidate


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