Nightly News | September 09, 2010
WILLIAMS: And good evening from the banks of the Mississippi River . We are back here in New Orleans tonight. We'll have a word about why a bit later on in the broadcast.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (New Orleans): But first we must begin tonight with some fast-moving events regarding the pastor from Florida who was threatening to burn the holy Quran on Saturday to coincide with the ninth anniversary of 9/11. Well, tonight it apparently took a phone call from the secretary of defense to make the pastor back down. He said late today he realizes now this is not the time to burn a Quran . And while initially this was reported to be part of a deal that would also include moving the location of that controversial planned Islamic community center near ground zero in lower Manhattan in New York , well, that part of this is being tonied tonight -- denied tonight. We'll sort this all out. We have it covered, beginning in Florida , where the announcement was made this afternoon. We want to begin with NBC 's Kerry Sanders , who's been covering this story in Gainesville , Florida . Kerry , what can you tell us?
KERRY SANDERS reporting: Well, good evening, Brian . Yes, NBC News has confirmed that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates late this afternoon phoned the pastor, Pastor Jones . Then a short time later, Pastor Jones came out here, with all the world's eyes looking at this field in rural Florida . They heard the pastor announce that he no longer plans to build a bonfire with more than 200 Qurans . Pastor Terry Jones says he no longer plans to burn the Quran .
Pastor TERRY JONES: We have been in very much thought and prayer over this whole period. A lot of times we were asked what would it take to call this thing off. We have thought it over many times.
SANDERS: The pastor now says burning the Quran was directly linked to plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque in lower Manhattan near ground zero .
Pastor JONES: If they were willing to either cancel the mosque at the ground zero location, or if they were willing to move that location, if they were willing to move it away from that location, we would consider that a sign from God.
SANDERS: Flanked by an imam from central Florida , Jones claims Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in New York has agreed the two sides should accommodate each other.
Pastor JONES: The imanhas agreed to move the mosque. We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday.
SANDERS: Imam Muhammad Musry , who has been negotiating an end to this for days, was less definitive.
Imam MUHAMMAD MUSRY: I have made this morning contact with the office of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf , and got a commitment to fly up to New York and meet with him in the company of Pastor Jones to discuss and come to a decision on relocating the mosque in New York . We are committed to dissolving the situation here and there.
SANDERS: While the owner of the building in New York tells NBC News there are no plans to move the proposed Islamic center , Pastor Jones says he has no reason to doubt what he's been told by the Florida imam who he sat with today.
Pastor JONES: He told me three times that the iman in New York said he would move the mosque. That is what he told me three times. I have witnesses. I only have -- I only have this man's word that supposedly only has the iman's word, but that should be good enough. That's good enough for me.
SANDERS: A representative for the Imam Rauf , who is in New York , says that the imam there never spoke to Pastor Jones today and would not because today is the last day of the holy month of Ramadan . Meantime, Pastor Jones says he plans to fly to New York on Saturday. He tells us he doesn't know who he's meeting with, he doesn't know what time he's going to meet or where he's going to meet. And when I asked him, in a late afternoon press conference here today, whether he felt he had been hoodwinked or tricked, he says, tricked and lied to if it turns out he is not meeting and if that mosque and cultural center near ground zero in lower Manhattan is not moved. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Kerry , forgive me for saying that this all sounds a little shaky and like it could fall apart. Is that your impression?
SANDERS: Yes. Although I would say that based on what the pastor has said here, he will not be here on Saturday. And so the planned burning that he was in charge of is not going to take place. So if there's a semantical difference that these different sides are unable to come to an agreement on on what's actually happening in New York , the one thing that does appear pretty clear here is that there will not be this event here with the piling up of more than 200 Qurans and setting them ablaze.
WILLIAMS: Oh, you're right, Kerry , that is the central event here we're talking about, after all. Kerry Sanders in Gainesville , who's been covering