Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt held former CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien’s feet to the fire over her current gig with Al Jazeera America, which is funded by the Qatari government, which backs Hamas and other Islamic terrorist organizations.
In an interview with O’Brien Monday, Hewitt pointed to a recent Businessweek article about Qatar’s ownership of Al Jazeera. Noting that the article’s headline called the small, wealthy nation of 300,000 “a patron of Islamists,” Hewitt backed O’Brien into a corner over her work with the news organization.
“[The article] says that Qatar funds and arms Islamists fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and bankrolling Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” Hewitt told O’Brien, asking, “How can you take money from them?”
“You know, I think that there is a couple of different issues there, and I think you could look at similar issues of what is funded in the United States,” O’Brien replied.
“To me, at the end of the day, we take a look at the journalism that is done. To me, I look at what the opportunities are and what is happening at Al Jazeera America, and the kinds of stories that they want to tell, and I don’t think anybody has said anything about their journalism at all. In fact, they’ve gotten incredibly high marks for their reporting.”
Hewitt agreed that some of Al Jazeera America’s reporting has been solid, but maintained the line of questioning.
“It’s just that Qatar owns it and on CNN tonight, they’re running this helicopter footage which is so, you know, the people that Qatar funds are engaged in genocide against these Kurdistan, against the Yazidis,” Hewitt said.
As the Businessweek article noted, Qatar has angered some other Middle Eastern nations over its ties with terror organizations. Besides Hamas, the nation backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and has strong ties to Iran.
“And I know that the journalism can be good, but if the funding for the journalism comes from a regime that is funding ISIS, does it creep you out?” Hewitt asked.
O’Brien, who left CNN to open her own media production company last year, maintained that her focus was on the quality of the organization’s journalism and not its financial ties.
“And I think those are very complicated issues,” she defended. “They’re not as straightforward as that.”
“Is there anything that would cause you to say if Qatar was shown to be funding ISIS, would you quit Al Jazeera?” Hewitt asked.
“No, very rarely do I operate in hypotheticals,” said O’Brien. “I certainly would take it under considerations, absolutely, as I take anything under consideration.”
Hewitt shot back, asking O’Brien “Have you spent time examining where Qatar’s money or where Al Jazeera’s money is coming from? I mean, have you spent time actually digging into it as a reporter?”
O’Brien said that she had looked into the company’s funding, as she does for all organizations she works for.
“So is Qatar funding Islamists?” asked Hewitt.
“Listen, as far as I can tell, it’s unclear to me,” said O’Brien.
“I think that that report is out, and that’s an interesting report, and I would have to continue to monitor it,” she continued, adding that she would consider leaving the network while maintaining that she does not deal in hypothetical situations.