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Saudi Royal Backs Imam and Fox News

August 26, 2010, 12:16 pm

In an awkward moment on Fox News this week, a pundit suggested that a member of the Saudi royal family who has supported the bridge-building work of the imam behind a planned Muslim community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan “funds radical madrasas all over the world.” The awkwardness came from the fact — unmentioned by anyone on the Fox set — that the same Saudi, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, also happens to be the second-largest shareholder in News Corp., the parent company of the Fox News Channel.

During his appearance on Fox News on Monday, Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official, hinted darkly that Feisal Abdul Rauf — an imam who was first recruited to promote religious tolerance in the Middle East on behalf of the United States government by the Bush administration — had, in the past, received financial support from a Saudi foundation established by a man with supposed radical ties. Mr. Senor did not mention the prince’s name but said:

The Kingdom Foundation, so you know, is this Saudi organization, headed up by the guy who tried to give Rudy Giuliani $10 million after 9/11 that was sent back, funds radical madrasas all over the world.

Last week, Sam Gustin pointed out on AOL’s Daily Finance blog that the prince owns a good portion of the channel on which he was vilified:

The stridency with which Fox News personalities attack the downtown Islamic center — red meat for the millions who tune in each night — is an example of the often uneasy relationship and occasionally diverging interests between many of News Corp.’s properties, in this case Fox News and its parent corporation. For example, News Corp.’s second-largest shareholder, after the Murdoch family, is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the nephew of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, and one of the world’s richest men.

Through his Kingdom Holding Co., Alwaleed owns about 7 percent of News Corp., or about $3 billion of the media giant.

In an interview with Deborah Solomon of The New York Times Magazine in 2006, the prince said his attempt to give $10 million to victims’ families after the Sept. 11 attacks — which was returned because he also suggested that the United States should “adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause” — was part of his attempt “to bridge the gap between Christianity and Islam and Judaism.”

News Corp.’s two largest shareholders, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Rupert Murdoch, last year in the United Arab Emirates.

As John Cook explained on Yahoo’s Update blog, several Fox News anchors and guests have gone to great lengths in recent weeks to suggest that the Muslim center is a front for radicalism by insisting that we must “follow the money” of the people who might donate money to it:

The opponents of the proposed Cordoba Initiative Islamic center planned for Lower Manhattan are fond of suggesting, by way of lengthy and often confusing chains of causation and association, that its principal planner, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is connected to terrorism.

“The imam has been tied to some shady characters,” Fox Business Channel’s Eric Bolling recently said, “so should we worry that terror dollars could be funding the project?”

Mr. Cook noted that the implication that Prince Alwaleed’s foundation spreads radicalism seems to stem from its donations to projects like one undertaken last year by the Islamic Development Bank, which is building three community centers in Malawi, each of which will reportedly include a mosque, a health center and a primary school.

The same day that Mr. Senor appeared on Fox, another News Corp. property, The Wall Street Journal, reported that “Controversy over the community center, which will contain a mosque and other facilities, has helped fan anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. far from Lower Manhattan in recent weeks.” Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism expert who monitors jihadist Web sites told the newspaper, “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup,” with the uproar over the center.

As my colleague Frank Rich pointed out several years ago, someone should really tell all journalists who think that they are emulating Woodward and Bernstein by repeating the mantra “follow the money” that the phrase was invented by the screenwriter William Goldman for the Hollywood version of “All the President’s Men.”

But taking the Fox pundits at their word, Jon Stewart suggested on The Daily Show this week that the best way to keep the Saudi prince from making money and then possibly using it to back the mosque project, is to boycott Fox News:

This is the proposed ‘terror mosque.’ We know that it’s a ‘terror mosque’ because the money may be coming from a bad guy, who definitely owns part of Fox News. Now, we know that he’s a bad guy because we just heard it on Fox News.

And by hearing it on Fox News, watching Fox News, I’m increasing their viewership. And their advertising rates go up. Now, part of that money goes to the bad guy we learned about on Fox because he’s their part owner — Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — allowing him then to make it rain, so to speak, on the ‘terror mosque.’

My point is this: If we want to cut off funding to the ‘terror mosque,’ we must, together as a nation, stop watching Fox.

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/saudi-royal-backs-imam-and-fox-news/

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