“Al Jazeera America Chief Is Ousted After Turmoil,” the New York Times report:
Al Jazeera America announced Wednesday that it was replacing its chief executive, Ehab Al Shihabi, who has been in that position since the network was founded two years ago.
It has been a difficult week for the network; three top executives left the company and another former employee sued it claiming wrongful termination. One of the executives who departed, Marcy McGinnis, said Mr. Al Shihabi meddled with news decisions and fostered a “culture of fear.”
Of course, Shihabi’s former bosses in the home office in Qatar really took that whole “culture of fear” thing seriously when it came to their neighbors in the Middle East. Or as Hugh Hewitt asked former MSNBC and CNN castoff Soledad O’Brien last year, ”’Businessweek’ today has a story on Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, and the headline calls Qatar a patron of Islamists. It says that Qatar funds and arms Islamists fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and bankrolling Hamas in the Gaza Strip. So here’s an honest question. How can you take money from them?”
At the left-leaning Daily Beast today, Lloyd Grove asks, “Is Al Jazeera Sexist, Anti-Semitic, and Anti-American?” If they’re not guilty on three counts, their home office must be very disappointed by them, no?
But in any case, considering that as of last year, Al Jazeera America was “averaging approximately 10,000 viewers at any given point during the day,” it’s entirely possible that the fictional Wayne and Garth would have gotten more viewers for their Aurora Illinois public access show than the amount of real-life viewers tuning in to watch Al Jazeera America. Just how wide is the divergence between what Oren Kessler of the Middle Eastern Quarterly dubbed “The Two Faces of Al Jazeera” back in 2012?
Likely not all much; “Pass the Popcorn: Al Jazeera America Being Sued for Sexism and Anti-Semitism,” I wrote on Sunday. Or as John Podhoretz tweets today, “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh aloud at the troubles besetting al-Jazeera.”
Update: So what did the Times mean by Shihabi’s “culture of fear?” This:
The problem, according to current and former staffers interviewed by the Times, lies in its leadership: the head of Al Jazeera America, Ehab Al Shihabi, has created a culture of low morale and fear of retaliation in the newsroom, as well as a hint of sexism, and, um, why has the Middle East correspondent gone missing from the office? (The network won’t hurt for money, mainly because it’s financed “from the deep pockets of the Qatar government”.)
As a prime example — and there are lots of examples in the story — here’s how Al Shihabi allegedly treated one of the network’s stars:
The station’s most recognizable face, Ali Velshi, a veteran of CNN, who hosts a prime-time show, led a similar meeting in February. Mr. Velshi’s line of questioning and his exchanges with Mr. Al Shihabi were particularly heated, according to five people present at the meeting.
Days later, when Mr. Velshi was not present, Mr. Al Shihabi threatened to sue Mr. Velshi and fire him, according to employees who said they heard him speaking openly in the newsroom.
“I’ll spend whatever I have to spend to bankrupt him in court,” Mr. Al Shihabi said, according to one employee who was there. Another heard Mr. Al Shihabi say, “He’s finished here.”
Classy. But in any case, as we’ve seen this week, “Who needs Al-Jazeera when you’ve got CNN?”