NEW YORK — Does Pamela Geller regret organizing the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that ended in gunfire?

No, she says confidently. In fact, she plans to host more events just like it, with only one difference: Next time, she’ll wear a bulletproof vest.

“I will continue to speak in defense of freedom until the day I die,” Geller said in an interview Thursday, as a grim-looking personal security guard hovered nearby. “It’s just that simple. It’s not even a choice. It’s a calling.”

Geller has always hired armed guards to protect the controversial events she has spearheaded across the nation to decry what she calls Islamic extremism. But furor over Sunday’s shooting in Garland, Texas, has led to a specific threat against Geller, posted on a website related to the Islamic State, and the New York Police Department is taking it seriously. Now she doesn’t travel anywhere without protection.

Geller said she believes she actually saved lives by hosting the contest because the two Muslim gunmen shot to death by police would have picked another “soft target” and killed innocent civilians.

“Would you regret saving lives?” she asked.

A master of rhetoric and clearly comfortable in the spotlight, the 56-year-old former media executive shifts easily from charming to combative. Her critics have called the cartoon contest needlessly provocative, practically an invitation for violence. But Geller argued that any blame should be focused on extremists who can’t be criticized or lampooned without resorting to violence.

“Cartoons are political critique. It’s a cartoon,” she said. “Is that what we want to outlaw? We want to outlaw humor? We want to outlaw comedy? If you want to know who rules over you, find out who you cannot criticize.”

Her activities have prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to add her to its “extremist files,” calling her “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead.”

In an editorial Thursday, The New York Times said Geller “has a long history of declarations and actions motivated purely by hatred for Muslims” and called the Garland event “an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom. … To pretend it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.”

Geller was once part of the “elite” media machine she professes to despise, working for the business operations of the New York Daily News and the New York Observer. Then, she was a self-described “apolitical” mother who paid little mind to world affairs.

“I loved my fashion. I loved my life. I loved my career,” she said. “I assumed my freedom. I grew up free, you know? I grew up in the freest country in the world. And I loved it.”

Then, “9/11 happened. And it was shattering.”

Sept. 11, Geller said, “threatened my freedom. It threatened the air that I breathe. This is nothing short of a battle between freedom and slavery.”