Accuracy in Media

The Arab-funded Al-Jazeera is hosting a two-day inaugural “Al Jazeera U.S. Forum” in Washington, D.C., featuring Bob Woodward of The Washington Post among the celebrity journalists. But of particular interest is Politico’s revelation that Republican Senator John McCain showed up at the opening night of the forum to praise the channel’s coverage of the Middle East.

“Over dinner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. John McCain praised Al Jazeera’s role as a catalyst in the Arab Spring uprisings before a room of journalists…” the publication reported. In fact, the “Arab Spring” has resulted in a government in Egypt that is less friendly to the U.S. and more accommodating to the Iranians and the terrorist group, Hamas.

This was a shocker because the day before, on Sunday, The Washington Post had finally gotten around to publishing a semi-critical article on the channel, noting its double-standards and open bias on the matter of revolutions in the Middle East. The Post even acknowledged that WikiLeaks had released a U.S. cable describing the channel as a foreign policy instrument of Qatar, the Middle Eastern dictatorship which financially sponsors it and selects its personnel.

While ignoring evidence of Al-Jazeera’s links to al-Qaeda, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Post article by Thomas Erdbrink noted that the channel “built its reputation on its critical coverage” of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq—a war strongly supported by Senator John McCain. Al-Jazeera’s first managing director, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali, was exposed as an agent of the Saddam Hussein regime.

McCain’s praise of Al-Jazeera was also curious because the channel, during the 2008 presidential campaign, had savaged the McCain-Palin ticket by running a piece depicting Republican voters as country bumpkins and racists. Casey Kaufmann, the Al-Jazeera reporter who did the story, contributed $500 to the Obama-for-president campaign, a violation of basic standards of journalism ethics.

Last December Al-Jazeera published an article asserting, “McCain’s fervent opposition to [Obama’s] presidential policies, are and always have been, driven by spite and not statesmanship.” The author, a contributor to the Huffington Post, had written a book highly critical of McCain entitled, The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him—And Why Independents Shouldn’t.

But on the matter of Libya, Al-Jazeera and McCain see eye-to-eye, and this has apparently made all the difference in the world. McCain granted an interview to Al-Jazeera English, telling anchor Tony Harris, a former CNN employee, that he supports the Obama policy of so-called humanitarian intervention. This policy, conducted without Congressional approval, has been criticized as illegal.

The interview with McCain was conducted in the Al-Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar’s capital. In another story, Al-Jazeera favorably highlighted McCain’s call for official recognition of the Libyan rebels, who include members of al-Qaeda.

The Post article in advance of McCain’s praise of Al-Jazeera noted that Qatar, the channel’s funder, “was the only Arab state to actively join in NATO operations” against the Libyan regime and that Al-Jazeera Arabic’s presenters called Libyan rebels killed in the conflict “martyrs,” and forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi were labeled “mercenaries.”

So Al-Jazeera’s coverage is hardly fair and balanced. Once again, the coverage is a reflection of the foreign policy of the regime that pays the bills.

A foreign media critic was quoted as saying that “Al-Jazeera Arabic changed from the most important Arab media voice against U.S. and European policies in the region to a champion and an apologist for such intervention.”

But the reason for this switch was not explained in adequate detail. It’s not because Al-Jazeera suddenly favors Western notions of human rights and real democracy in the Middle East. It’s because Gaddafi fell out of favor with more radical elements in the Middle East when he gave up his nuclear weapons program under pressure from the Bush Administration and started turning over the names of members of al-Qaeda to U.S. intelligence. This is one reason why Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a long-time Al-Jazeera TV personality and inspiration for the Muslim Brotherhood, called for Gaddafi’s death and issued a fatwa against him.

Politico reported that former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in remarks to the Al-Jazeera dinner in Washington, D.C. on Monday said, “I’m very delighted to be here with Senator McCain. When I accepted this invitation to speak here this evening, I didn’t realize that he was going to be here until I arrived. You can just imagine how happy I was to see him, because I was preparing for the onslaught of criticism that I was going to receive. But now I’m covered!”

Ignoring the views of those, including Judea Pearl, who have documented the channel’s pro-terrorist bent, McCain has indeed given the anti-American channel important “cover” at a time when it is anxious to obtain access to more American homes, including those of English-speaking Muslims susceptible to pro-Jihad propaganda messages.

The only explanation that makes any sense is that Al-Jazeera constitutes another channel that can give—and has given—McCain favorable publicity. The Arizona Senator has a reputation as a favorite of the press who is always anxious to get in front of a TV camera. In this regard, Al-Jazeera simply constitutes another outlet, albeit an unsavory one, that he can use to promote himself. He may, however, find that it will turn on him—and the West—after Gaddafi is overthrown and the Muslim Brotherhood takes power.

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