Saudis Influencing Fox News
In the following interview, RadicalIslam.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro speaks to Diana West, a nationally syndicated conservative American columnist and author, about the impact of the partial ownership of Fox news by Saudi Prince Alwaleed.
Ryan Mauro: You have devoted a lot of your time towards covering Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Can you tell us about him and why he warrants this attention?
Diana West: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is usually described as a billionaire Saudi businessman, but he is also a senior member of the Saudi monarchy. He is the nephew of the Saudi dictator, King Abdullah, and the first cousin of the Saudi interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. He is also the largest stakeholder in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. outside the Murdoch family.
We may not realize it, but most of us first heard about Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in the immediate aftermath 9/11. That was when a "Saudi prince" -- it was Alwaleed -- became infamous for having donated $10 million to the Twin Towers Fund only to have then-mayor Rudy Giuliani return the check.
Why did Giuliani return the check? It became clear the prince wasn't making a donation but rather a political statement. After presenting the money, the prince issued a press release blaming the 9/11 attacks on American support for Israel -- while, as Alwaleed's statement read, "our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of the Israelis.”
As the San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time, Giuliani hadn't seen see this press release when he initially accepted the Saudi check among others from government and private industry leaders. In a separate letter Guliani did read, Alwaleed had expressed only condolences for "the loss of life that the city of New York has suffered," while condemning "all forms of terrorism." The Saudi prince wrote: "In doing so I am reiterating Saudi Arabia's strong stance against these tragic and horrendous acts."
That was fine. It was the press release attached to the letter that was not fine. This statement, also in Alwaleed's name, sought to blame U.S. policy on "the Palestinian cause" for the attack. It said:
"However, at times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.
"Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek."
The Chronicle report continued:
The mayor, who had been told of the press release just moments before his daily briefing but after receiving the check, was visibly annoyed. "I entirely reject that statement," he said. "That's totally contrary to what I said at the United Nations," he added, referring to his address there last Monday.
"There is no moral equivalent for this act," the mayor said. "There is no justification for it. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4,000 or 5,000 innocent people. And to suggest that there's a justification for it only invites this happening in the future. It is highly irresponsible and very, very dangerous."
The mayor added that he might consult with the State Department before deciding what to do with the check; an hour later, his press office released a statement attributed to the mayor that the check would not be accepted.
A spokesman for the prince, Amjed Shacker, who was reached on his cell phone as he prepared to board a plane for Saudi Arabia, said he knew of no such rejection and indeed seemed perplexed to learn of it.
Giuliani's very public rebuff was very popular, including among star personalities at Fox News. At the time, it is important to note, Alwaleed did not own any voting stock in News Corp. Here's what some of them said (I hate to cite Media Matters but so be it):
Sean Hannity: Al-Waleed's statement was "such an egregious, outrageous, unfair offense that I would have nothing to do with his money either." On the October 22, 2001, edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes (accessed via Nexis), Sean Hannity said, "[T]his is a man that blames the United States and their policies for the attack that took place on September 11th. That is such an egregious, outrageous, unfair offense that I would have nothing to do with his money either, and I applaud what Mayor Giuliani did. It showed a lot of guts and character."
Hannity: "This is a bad guy. Rudy was right to decline the money." On the December 13, 2005, edition of Hannity & Colmes (accessed via Nexis), while discussing a grant Al-Waleed gave Georgetown and Harvard universities, Hannity said: "This is a bad guy. Rudy was right to decline the money. Why would these universities take money from him?"
Mara Liasson: "[I]t was an outrageous statement and the mayor did the right thing and refused the money." Discussing Giuliani's decision to return the money on the October 11, 2001, edition of Fox News' Special Report (accessed via Nexis), Fox News contributor Mara Liasson said Al-Waleed's statement was "completely false," "outrageous" and that "the mayor did the right thing and refused the money."
Bill Sammon: "[I]t's blood money, and we're better off without it." During the same discussion with Liasson, Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon said of the money, "[W]hen you think about it, upon reflection, you think,
Story continues at link above