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How Fox News Turned a Scholarly Tome on Jesus Into a Bestseller

Aslan speaking at the 2013 Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, India
Aslan speaking at the 2013 Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, IndiaPhotograph by M Zhazo/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Courtesy Random House
It was cable TV’s perfect storm, playing out in an online-only venue: a Muslim author, a Fox News anchor, and a book about the historical figure of Jesus. Religion scholar Reza Aslan sat for that rather awkward interview on Friday with anchor Lauren Green, host of a show called Spirited Debate, while making the rounds for his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Three days and millions of clicks later, Aslan’s scholarly tome with extensive footnotes had unseated even the mighty J.K. Rowling to become the No. 1 seller on Amazon.

Throughout the now-famous conversation, Green repeatedly questioned Aslan’s motives for writing a book about Jesus, given his own identification with a different religion. At one point she even accused him of hiding his faith from his readers. Aslan swiftly debunked the charge by directing Green to the second page of his book, on which his Muslim identity is made plain. The career academic spent much of the encounter reciting the relevant parts of his CV with the deliberate cadence that one reserves for a small child. If you haven’t seen it, the roughly 10-minute segment can been seen in full: