Fox News may have unwittingly provided a sales boost for provocative Jesus biographer Reza Aslan, who found himself defending his position as both a religious scholar and a Muslim in an appearance on Spirited Debate.
Speaking with host Lauren Green on the Friday Fox News webcast, Zealot author Aslan was immediately asked why, as a Muslim, he decided to write a book about the founder of Christianity.
"Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees," snapped Aslan, "including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.
"It's not that I'm just some Muslim writing about Jesus," he continued. "I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions."
The clip went viral over the weekend, thanks in large part to a posting on Buzzfeed with the headline "Is This the Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?"
According to a New York Times report, the Buzzfeed page has since notched nearly four million views, and Aslan himself gained an additional 5,000 Twitter followers. More important, Aslan's publisher, Random House, on Monday said that sales of his book increased by 35 percent over the course of two days. Zealot was in the No. 8 spot on Amazon.com on Friday but hit No. 1 by Sunday.
Since the book's publication on July 16, Aslan had made publicity appearances on programs including Comedy Central's The Daily Show, MSNBC's Morning Joe and NPR's Weekend Edition. The Times reports that the book debuted at No. 4 on its print hardcover best-seller list, which will appear in print on Aug. 4.
“I’ll be perfectly honest -- I’m thrilled at the response that people have had to the interview,” Aslan told The Times. “You can’t buy this kind of publicity.”