CNN has renounced its support of Believer.
A spokesperson confirmed to EW on Friday that the cable network has “decided to not move forward with production” on the second season of Reza Aslan’s religious-themed travel series. Though the network did not offer a reason for the cancellation, it comes days after Aslan ignited controversy by calling President Donald Trump a “piece of s–” and “an embarrassment to humankind” on Twitter.
The Iranian-American scholar blasted Trump for promoting his travel ban and criticizing London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on London Bridge last weekend.
Aslan apologized a day later, issuing a statement that said, “I lost my cool and responded to [Trump] in a derogatory fashion. That’s not like me. I should have used better language to express my shock and frustration at the president’s lack of decorum and sympathy for the victims of London. I apologize for my choice of words.”
The first season of Believer debuted in March, and a second season was announced at an event for advertisers last month. CNN’s statement on the cancellation noted, “We wish Reza and his production team all the best.”
In a statement posted to Twitter, Aslan said he was “very disappointed” to get the ax but added, “In these politically charged times, the tenor of our nation’s discourse has become complicated, and I recognize that CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news outlet. Similarly, I need to honor my voice. I am not a journalist. I am a social commentator and scholar.”
Some celebrities and media figures assailed CNN’s decision to drop Aslan, including vocal Trump critic Rosie O’Donnell and, more surprisingly, conservative commentator Sean Hannity.
O’Donnell tweeted, “CNN – for shame – POTUS is a piece of s– and so it seems are you.”
Hannity offered, “Reza calling the @POTUS a POS is bad form. Calling me the same fair game. I do not think you should be fired. You apologized #FreeSpeech.”
Aslan’s wife, the entrepreneur Jessica Jackley, also weighed in, tweeting, “So the swear jar got another quarter this wk. Fine. Truth is truth. Proud.” She included a link to a Daily Beast article criticizing CNN for cutting ties with Aslan while continuing to feature Trump surrogates like Jeffrey Lord.
Many conservative voices, including Brent Bozell and Dinesh D’Souza, applauded CNN’s decision. See more reactions below.