In World War II, when Tokyo Rose broadcast enemy propaganda, at least the enemy had to foot the bills for it. Times change, and now there’s Al Hurra.
Set up four years ago by the Bush administration to help fight the information wars in the Middle East, Al Hurra is an Arabic-language TV station, based in Virginia, which keeps getting caught out broadcasting exactly the kind of enemy propaganda it is supposed to counter. At one point, Al Hurra aired live an hour-long speech by Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah. As recently as last month — despite multiple bouts of congressional criticism, reshuffles, promises of change, and almost half a billion taxpayer dollars spent — Al Hurra has again been discovered subverting its own mandate by airing this anti-Israel diatribe , in which a Palestinian guest, Hani El-Masri, in Arabic, on Al Hurra’s flagship show, “Free Hour,” slanders Israel, unchallenged.
That clip was unearthed as part of a joint investigation by CBS’s “60 Minutes” and the newly formed investigative journalism outfit Pro Publica, run by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger. Their expose, scheduled to air this evening on “60 Minutes,” with related materials to be posted on the Pro Publica web site, digs into the story of “U.S.-Funded Arab TV Channel Slams Israel.”
I haven’t yet seen the segment in full, but what’s striking in the material posted on the CBS site is not only the appalling material broadcast by Al Hurra, but the utter rejection by its top executive, Brian Conniff, of any criticism about this. He told CBS it is “absolutely wrong” that Al Hurra is anti-Israel, and that behind the clip linked above, he sees “absolutely no pattern.” (For more background, see the compilation of articles put out by Senator Tom Coburn, and here’s a link to Al Hurra , which falls under the purview of the Broadcasting Board of Governers). Actually, there does seem to be a pattern, and it is that every time this kind of incident is unearthed, the executives in charge want to dismiss it as trivial, irrelevant, and not part of a pattern. … Your tax dollars at work.