The Congressional Leadership Fund, a group devoted to maintaining a Republican majority in the House, is out with an Internet attack on Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Sixth District congressional race.
It directly attacks Ossoff’s documentary producer whose work has appeared on the Al-Jazeera TV network. The ad calls Al Jazeera “a mouthpiece for terrorists,” citing a 2011 piece on the rising news organization in the American Journalism Review.
But more than that, the video attack offers up an image of Osama bin Laden, the slain jihadist. Watch here:
We’ve been here before. In the 2002 race for the U.S. Senate, Republican Saxby Chambliss employed an image of bin Laden in an attack on Democratic incumbent Max Cleland.
Democrats still remember that.
Ossoff is “proud of his work as an investigative filmmaker working for outlets all over the world like the BBC, Skyvision, and yes, Al Jazeera,” campaign manager Keenan Pontoni said in an email. “Jon helped stop the theft of US tax dollars and helped expose atrocities committed by ISIS. Comparing that important work to helping terrorists goes beyond the pale.”
The AJR piece referred to was written only months before U.S. special forces caught up with bin Laden in Pakistan. The thesis of the article, written as the Arab Spring was in full force: The Qatar-based news organization, despite early editorial decisions that had drawn stiff rebukes and accusations of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, had become a legitimate and influential source of Middle East information. From the article, emphasis ours:
On March 2, Al Jazeera received a gold plated endorsement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to argue for more funding on the grounds the U. S. was losing the “information war.”
“Al Jazeera has been the leader in that they are literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective,” Clinton told lawmakers. “In fact, viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news.” U.S. media, she added, were not keeping up.
Clinton’s praise was a stamp of approval that even the emir’s billions couldn’t buy. “We are increasingly seen as the channel of reference, whether that be in the White House or the State Department,” an ebullient Anstey said in our interview.
Since its creation, Al Jazeera has had a polarizing effect, particularly among Westerners. Clinton’s “like or hate it” remark was on target. The network, hailed as champion of press freedom in the Arab world, was seizing the moment to woo Americans, even though it is largely unavailable on television in this country and must be accessed via the Internet. A January 31 article in The Nation praised Al Jazeera for providing “the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands down” during the Mideast crisis.
Not everyone was applauding.
For years, critics have assailed what they see as anti-Semitic, anti-American bias in the channel’s news content. In the wake of 9/11, Al Jazeera broadcast statements by Osama bin Laden and reported from within the ranks of the Taliban, earning a reputation as a mouthpiece for terrorists. In October 2001, a New York Times editorial took Al Jazeera to task for reporting Jews had been informed in advance not to go to work at the World Trade Center the day of the attacks. The Bush administration was openly hostile to the news organization.
Missteps over the years have fueled concern about the network’s agenda.
An often-repeated example involves an on-air birthday party organized by Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief for a Lebanese militant convicted of killing four Israelis, including a four-year-old girl. Al Jazeera greeted Samir Kuntar, released in a July 2008 prisoner swap, as a hero. Fox News Channel’s Britt Hume reported at the time, “As Kuntar cut into his cake, the network set off fireworks.” Al Jazeera later apologized to Israel for the “unethical” coverage, but the damage had been done.