Author Reza Aslan speaks in Portland after controversial Fox interview

Author Reza Aslan speaks in Portland after controversial Fox interview
Reza Aslan during an interview with KATU.com on Wednesday. Aslan spoke at Powell's Books on Tuesday evening.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Reza Aslan seemed like a seasoned pro and had a big smile as he sat down to get makeup applied before a TV satellite interview on Wednesday morning in Portland. Still, he said he's tired after a whirlwind five days as a must-have guest on cable talk shows.

Aslan, the author of a much-debated new book about Jesus Christ called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," has found himself in the spotlight since an appearance last Friday on a Fox News webcast. That video has since gone viral, receiving more than 5 million views on BuzzFeed alone.

In the interview, a Fox News anchor at times awkwardly grills him about writing a book about Jesus despite being a Muslim. In turn, critics have lashed out against the line of questioning. (You can watch the full interview on FoxNews.com.)

The attention, however, has proven beneficial for Aslan. After the interview his book jumped to No. 1 on Amazon and No. 2 on Barnes and Noble’s website. He has been interviewed on the Today Show, made several appearances on MSNBC and become the subject of many articles.

He also drew a capacity crowd during a reading at Powell’s Books on Tuesday night. In fact, Aslan said Powell’s staff had to turn away about 100 people who wanted to see him speak.

“Powell’s, the greatest bookstore in America,” Aslan said with a big smile during an interview with KATU News on Wednesday morning. “It was amazing. I really, really enjoyed it.”

Aslan said he fielded a series of “remarkable” questions from people of all religious backgrounds during his Powell’s talk.

Aslan called his Fox News interview “bizarre and surreal,” but said he’s glad the video and the reaction to it have sparked an important national discussion.

“I’m mostly happy that we’re now as a nation talking about this kind of stuff,” Aslan said. “Rather than talking about something Kim Kardashian did, we’re having a serious, sophisticated conversation about media bias and about scholarship and religion.”

Of course, the book sales are a nice perk.

“There is no question that I would have never overtaken J.K. Rowling if it had not been for Fox News, so thank you Fox News for that one little thing,” he quipped.

Aslan has not yet talked with Lauren Green, the Fox News interviewer, but said he would like to at some point.

He said Green has been unfairly attacked in recent days.

“I really, really would like people to tone down the attacks on Lauren Green. It’s not funny, it’s not cool,” Aslan said. Rather, he blamed her producers who he thinks pushed the line of questioning.

Some critics have called for Fox News to apologize to Aslan, but he doesn’t feel that he should be owed an apology. He said Fox is a commercial enterprise and accomplished a goal of getting more eyeballs on its product.

“It’s great for them just like it has been good for me.”