SOUTH BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (AP/1010 WINS) — A Florida pastor who drew international criticism by threatening to burn a copy of the Koran picked up a free car on Friday, his reward from a New Jersey car dealer for calling it off.
Former New York Giants tackle Brad Benson, who is now New Jersey’s largest car dealer, offered Florida pastor Terry Jones a 2011 Hyundai Accent worth $14,200 if he would agree to never burn the Muslim holy book. Jones had threatened to do it on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Jones never burned the Koran. On Friday, the Gainesville, Fla., pastor arrived at Brad Benson Mitsubishi Hyundai in South Brunswick to collect a gray 2011 Hyundai Accent, which he promptly donated to a charity.
The pastor said the offer Benson made in one of his dealership’s quirky radio ads was not the reason he decided to cancel the Koran burning, and that he only heard about it a few weeks after Sept. 11.
“We thought if he wants to give a car, then why not take it and pass it on to another nonprofit organization,” Jones said.
Jones donated the car to a Jersey City shelter that helps abused women.
“Rev. Jones was very subtle when he was here,” Benson told 1010 WINS. “He still obviously harbors some very strong opinions but he was good, he was nice, he was very polite. I think he was genuinely happy that he was able to donate this car to this organization.”
Paul Johnson, the chief financial officer for Women Rising, said he was surprised to hear that the shelter was getting the car and under such unusual circumstances.
“I couldn’t believe it at first, I thought it was a prank,” Johnson said.
Benson added giant removable vinyl American flag-emblazoned peace signs on the hood and roof, which he said were meant as a “little jab” at Jones.
“I’m just really glad that in the end something really good came out of all this,” Benson said.
Benson paid for the pastor to fly out to New Jersey so that Jones could fill out paperwork.
Security was tight on Friday at the dealership. Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats since he first said he would burn a Koran.
“It was a pretty humbling experience for everybody involved,” Benson told 1010 WINS. “We got a chance to meet the interfaith group in New York who had been speaking to the Rev. Jones to try to get him to temper his position on things and they were actually the people that ended up receiving the car.”
When Jones threatened to burn the Koran — which many Muslims would view as sacrilege — his plan drew opposition across the world.
President Barack Obama appealed to him on television, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates called him personally. Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said carrying out the plan would have endangered American troops.
The Koran commercial was part of a regular “idiot award” segment Benson does which singles out newsmakers. Others have included actress Lindsey Lohan, actor Mel Gibson and baseball star Roger Clemens.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)