Opinion

DUGGAN: Fake News About A Fake Newsman — Jamal Khashoggi — Wins Pulitzer Honors

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Joseph Duggan Contributor

In an age plagued by fake news, American establishment media are indulging in an orgy of self-congratulation over their misleading coverage of the career of an anti-Semitic fake newsman.

On April 15, the Pulitzer Prize committee gave finalist laurels in “public service” to the Washington Post “for commanding and courageous coverage of the murder of Saudi-born journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s Turkish consulate.”

The Pulitzer honors continue an orchestrated propaganda campaign that has paralyzed U.S. foreign policy in the Arab region since last autumn.

The propaganda, supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathizers in the regimes of Turkey and Qatar, undermines President Trump’s efforts for a historic Middle East peace plan to include rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Media mandarins and misguided politicians — some of them establishment Republican senators — have hoodwinked millions by portraying Khashoggi as a martyr for press freedom and democracy. The real Khashoggi was nothing of the sort.

Khashoggi was born into wealth and status as a member of Saudi Arabia’s oligarchy. Saudi rulers groomed Khashoggi to become their country’s version of a leading journalist. They also employed him, at times openly, as an official of their national intelligence agency. He was highly visible both in the Saudi print media and on Saudi television. He had an attractive, avuncular manner, evocative of an Arab Walter Cronkite saying “that’s the way it is.” Whenever it suited him and his employers, however, much of what Khashoggi said was the way it wasn’t.

I lived in Saudi Arabia from 2009 to 2015, working there as a speechwriter for the top executives of the Saudi government-owned oil giant Aramco. At a public relations conference in Dubai in March 2012 I was seated at a luncheon next to Khashoggi. He was a charming conversationalist, and we spoke with one another for the better part of an hour.

As we conversed, Khashoggi and I clearly understood that there is no such thing as independent journalism in Saudi Arabia. As under similar or even harsher regimes, everything that was made to seem like journalism was actually part of an influence operation.

During our conversation he told me of his latest endeavor, establishing a Saudi-controlled TV news channel that would attempt to rival the Qatar government’s hugely successful Al Jazeera. This enterprise, called Al-Arab, was to be a sophisticated influence operation, owned by the “Saudi Warren Buffett,” Prince Alwaleed, one of the monarch’s many nephews. “For greater ease of doing business,” Khashoggi told me, the TV channel was to be based not in Saudi Arabia but in the neighboring island country of Bahrain, where alcohol flowed and women were less inhibited.

Following Khashoggi’s years of effort, Al-Arab was taken off the air the same day it began broadcasting in early 2015. This was because Saudi King Abdullah, who had been a patron of the enterprise, had died the previous week. The new ruler, King Salman, and his powerful son Prince Mohammed, did not want Alwaleed and Khashoggi to go forward with the project.

In 2017, Alwaleed fell further from favor when he became one of a number of billionaire princes temporarily incarcerated on corruption charges. Alwaleed’s downfall was a signal for Khashoggi to leave his country.

Arriving in Washington, he arranged to write columns for the Washington Post. Invariably these were highly critical of the regime he had supported for all of his previous career.

During his year in Washington, was Khashoggi he really a “lonely exile” — as Time magazine called him in naming him 2018 “Person of the Year” — and a genuine, quixotic voice for democracy and human rights?

That would be out of character for Khashoggi. He was highly informed, intelligent and practical. As I report in my new book Khashoggi, Dynasties, and Double Standards, he understood the real situation of Saudi Arabia and the region much better than the American readers whom he was systematically misleading. Knowing that Saudi Arabia does not now have a culture capable of sustaining democracy, he was working to undermine the existing authoritarian Saudi leadership and replace it with a more repressive revolutionary Muslim Brotherhood regime.

This week the Jerusalem Post provided further insight by reporting that Khashoggi expressed his attitude against Jews in anti-Semitic tweets, including statements of support for the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Every day the picture becomes clearer that Khashoggi, a longtime Saudi intelligence and influence operative, died as a renegade against his native country in the service of Muslim Brotherhood interests opposed to Arab-Israeli peace.

Joseph P. Duggan is a former U.S. diplomat, speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, and author of Khashoggi, Dynasties, and Double Standards, available now for pre-order from Encounter Books.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.