Media Matters still hearts Al-Jazeera

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Media Matters for America doesn’t often find much time in its busy schedule of incessantly attacking Fox News to praise other news outlets, so it is noteworthy that it took a moment Wednesday to give a slobbering electronic kiss to Al-Jazeera.

“During its first day on the air, Al Jazeera America gave climate change nearly half as much coverage as network news programs did during the year 2012, all while avoiding common pitfalls like providing false balance to those that deny the science and leaving the crisis’ manmade origins ambiguous,” Media Matters’ Max Greenberg wrote of Al-Jazeera’s latest creation, which launched Tuesday.

“The fledgling network’s first climate report comprised the entirety of Tuesday’s edition of Inside Story, a half-hour news discussion program that promises to ‘take an in-depth look at the story behind the headlines.’ Indeed, the inaugural show featured a meaningful dialogue on — in guest Heidi Cullen’s words — ‘coming to terms with the fact that we’re all part of the problem … [and] the solution’ to manmade global warming, and discussed consequences like extreme weather and rising sea levels.”

“Bottom line: this was a great start,” Greenberg concluded.

This is not the first time Media Matters has praised or been linked to the Qatar-based media network, whose Arabic channel’s top show features a Holocaust-praising imam.

As The Daily Caller previously reported, Media Matters Action Network senior fellow MJ Rosenberg, who has since left the organization, wrote a column that regularly appeared on Al-Jazeera’s website. Rosenberg also represented Media Matters at an Al-Jazeera-hosted forum in Doha, Qatar, in 2010 in which he praised the network as “mainstream” while bashing Fox News. He further suggested that the U.S. government intentionally bombed an Al-Jazeera bureau and expressed satisfaction that President Obama was treating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poorly.

“Bush has been replaced by Obama,” Rosenberg said at the first Al-Jazeera “Unplugged” forum on social media at the Sheraton Hotel & Resort in Doha on May 22, 2010, while explaining he had been invited to the conference in Washington earlier that year by the then-director general of Al-Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar. “Yes, I applaud too. Which means people from the United States government go on Al-Jazeera. This is very significant. Under the Bush administration, Al-Jazeera was boycotted by the United — it was worse than boycotted: As you well know, it was bombed by orders of the United States government.”

According to Daily Caller sources, Khanfar met with Media Matters’ top two officials, David Brock and Eric Burns, at the organization’s Washington office in 2010.

On Tuesday, Media Matters also posted a story saying that the launch of Al-Jazeera America was being used as an excuse by conservative outlets to preach “Islamophobia.”

“In The New York Times, media reporter Brian Stelter described the launch of Al Jazeera America as ‘something a journalism professor would imagine’ due to its ‘Fourteen hours of straight news every day. Hard-hitting documentaries. Correspondents in oft-overlooked corners of the country. And fewer commercials than any other news channel,'” the post began. “The conservative media, however, saw the channel’s launch today as an opportunity to spread fact-free Islamophobia.”

The article made no mention of critiques of Al-Jazeera’s family of networks as anti-American, anti-Israel and even, at times, anti-Semitic.

Besides the newly launched Al-Jazeera America and Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language station, the Al-Jazeera media empire also includes Al-Jazeera English.

Al-Jazeera was founded in the mid-1990s by Qatar’s former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa. It first came to international attention after 9/11 as the go-to network for al-Qaida propaganda.

David Pollock, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has written on Al-Jazeera and often appears as a commentator on the network, told The Daily Caller in January that the network remains a tool of Qatari foreign policy.

“I mean, the chief executive of the overall holding company is a member of the royal family of Qatar,” Pollock said, soon after it was announced that Al Gore’s Current TV had been sold to the network to form Al-Jazeera America. “I think that they have, you know, pretty clearly — although you can never document it — but they’ve pretty clearly shifted editorial direction on certain key issues, like the Syrian civil war, in response to changes in Qatari government policies. And sometimes they, you know, hire and fire their top talent for, I think, probably political reasons.”

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