This seems a bit of an over-reaction: Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek and CNN returned an award that was presented to him in 2005 by the Anti-Defamation League, its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, to protest its opposition to the Islamic center near Ground Zero.
Wrote Zakaria in a public letter to Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL:
“I cannot in good conscience hold onto the award or the honorarium that came with it and am returning both. I hope that it might add to the many voices that have urged you to reconsider and reverse your position on this issue. This decision will haunt the ADL for years if not decades to come.
“Whether or not the center is built, what is at stake here is the integrity of the ADL and its fidelity to its mission. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain your reputation.”
The organization makes one bone-headed decision and Zakaria can’t accept an award he received five years ago? I can understand if the ADL’s mosque decision was part of a pattern of anti-Muslim or intolerant moves, but it got so much attention precisely because it was such an outlier.
If I were Zakaria, I would have written a scathing critique, using his honor as the sort of bona fide that other critics lack. How about, “As someone who shares your commitment to tolerance and the first amendment, and was a proud recipient of your award in 2005, I am writing to say how disappointed I am in your taking a position that contradicts those ideals. I am donating a sum equal to the honorarium I received as part of the prize to [insert organization of choice that supports the mosque project or the principles he feels ADL has betrayed].”
The precedent he is setting is this: “Any time I accept an award from an organization, I am doing so on the condition that it never take a position with which I disagree.” That sounds harsh, self-serving, and short-sighted.
I think a better position, especially for a journalist, is to decline any awards from any organization, so you would never feel a conflict between your views and its (and never be accused of being in the tank for the organization).