David Letterman earns jihadist death threat: What did Letterman do?

David Letterman has inflamed the ire of a jihadist web forum by a gesture he made on 'Late Show with David Letterman.'

Heather Wines/CBS/AP/File
David Letterman appears on the set of 'Late Show with David Letterman' in New York in 2010. Mr. Letterman's life has been threatened by a post on a jihadist website.

David Letterman could be called an equal opportunity offender. Now he’s a marked man: a recent posting on the radical Shumukh al-Islam web forum called for his assassination – and, for good measure, to cut off Letterman's tongue. These threats were issued in response to a broadcast the CBS television program ‘Late Show with David Letterman,’ Mr. Letterman celebrated the killing of senior Al Qaeda member Ilyas Kashmiri by drawing his finger across his throat.

Letterman made the gesture after it was announcement on June 5, that a US drone strike in Afghanistan had killed Kashmiri. Various reports also said that Letterman had insulted Osama bin Laden.

Letterman's off-color satire has riled people up before: After he insulted 14-year-old Willow Palin, Sarah Palin’s daughter, women’s groups called for his resignation, and he was inducted into the National Organization of Women Media Hall of Shame.

For an entertainer whose stock in trade is provocation, inciting a death threat with an on-air gesture might be cause for bragging rights. But this latest threat is no laughing matter. According to SITE Intelligence Group, which keeps track of Internet extremism, a frequent contributor, by the name of Umar al-Basrawi, wrote the following diatribe against Letterman:

“Is there not amongst you a Sayyid Nosair al-Masri (may Allah release him) to cut the tongue of this lowly Jew and shut it forever. Just as Sayyid (may Allah release him) did with the Jew Kahane [referring to Masri, who was convicted of the 1990 killing of Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League]

We ask Allah to paralyze his tongue and grant the sincere monotheists his neck. O Allah, amen.”

For the record, Letterman was raised Presbyterian. He’s been targeted before, weathering a stalker, an extortionist, and a would-be kidnapper.

The FBI is looking into the case, and SITE is advising Letterman to exercise the same caution he would with a stalker. Historically, most celebrity targets of of Islamic radicals have not been harmed, such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone of ‘South Park’ fame, who depicted the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit. A notable exception was Theodoor "Theo" van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who criticized the treatment of women in Islam and was assassinated by Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004.

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