For the first time in nearly five years, controversial Christian televangelist Bill Keller is going off the air.
Keller – known for his vitriolic criticism of religious, political and pop culture figures – said Thursday his program was yanked in response to pressure from local Muslims.
Earlier this month, officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations wrote to executives at CBS asking them to investigate Live Prayer with Bill Keller, an hourlong nightly program.
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 Mohammed a “murdering pedophile.” He also called the Koran a “book of fables and a book of lies.”
CAIR officials asked for equal air time for Florida Muslims to counter Keller’s assertions. The show, which aired nightly from 1to 2 a.m., is broadcast on WTOG-TV CH. 44, a CBS-owned station that airs the CW network locally.
“I’m saying nothing now that I haven’t been saying for five years,” said Keller, who plans to hold his last broadcast on Aug. 31. “Ultimately, it was pressure by CAIR that intimidated these people into taking me off the air. It was not mutually agreeable. They told me they were taking me off the air, period.”
But WTOG station manager Laura Caruso said the decision to end Keller’s contract was a programming one, made by station executives and the televangelist.
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with any special interest groups or anybody in the community,” Caruso said. “I think he has a good program, and I wish him all the success in the world.”
CAIR claims credit
After speaking with CBS executives, CAIR claims credit for Keller’s demise on WTOG. His contract, set to end in December, will terminate on Sept. 11.
“They really based their decision upon our letter,” said Ramzy Kilic, CAIR’s civil rights coordinator. “They really did not know that Bill Keller was involved with this kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Acting on complaints from bay area Muslims, CAIR officials began monitoring Keller’s programs in May.