While the lawsuit over the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera is making headlines, a close reading of the legal complaint provides additional evidence that a congressional investigation into the curious transaction is urgently needed and necessary.
The media executive who claims to have arranged the sale says the idea was to make the Terror TV channel “palatable to U.S. lawmakers,” a formulation that suggests foreign lobbying on Capitol Hill in order to protect the $500 million payoff to Gore and other owners and investors in Current TV.
The suit says that media executive John Terenzio also proposed smoothing things over with “pro-Israel factions, cable operators and, most importantly, the American public.”
The other controversial aspect of the deal, as noted by Fox News contributor Lisa Daftari, is that “Al Jazeera America” has announced plans for bureaus in eight cities, including Detroit, Michigan, and that “Detroit, Michigan is a large ex-pat community of Muslim-Americans where [Jihadist] sleeper cells have been detected.”
Detroit has been called the Arab capital of North America.
Because of the danger of inciting Arabs and Muslims into anti-American violence, Accuracy in Media has called on the House Homeland Security Committee, under the chairmanship of Texas Republican Michael McCaul, to investigate the sale and look at the evidence that the channel is a foreign terrorist entity that can be outlawed on U.S. soil. He has refused to do so.
The Al Gore lawsuit constitutes another reason why Congress has to investigate. If Al Gore had paid Terenzio for his services, as the suit alleges, it is likely that the nature of the deal and the private discussions that went into it would never have been made public. Now, however, all of this is on the public record and more damaging details, if Gore doesn’t settle the lawsuit, will almost certainly come out.
The revelations demonstrate how sensitive the deal was in the first place. Terenzio says one of his objectives was to develop “strategies to overcome Al Jazeera’s negative image and make Al Jazeera acceptable to American viewers.” Many members of the public associate Al Jazeera with the videos of Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Al Jazeera aired those videos, as well as interviews with bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders, and is today still regarded as the voice of the pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.
In short, the plan was for a massive propaganda campaign to play down the channel’s ties to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and its financing by the pro-Jihadist Arab government of Qatar.
Terenzio says he came up with “Al Jazeera America,” a name obviously designed to mask the foreign and Arab nature of the propaganda channel.
The revelations in the suit follow reports that the new channel has been feverishly hiring expensive K Street lobbying firms to stop Congress from investigating the deal, and is hiring dozens of American journalists.
Terenzio says in his lawsuit that he “created a sophisticated PowerPoint presentation” describing the deal and that the structure was “based in large measure on the strategies developed by Terenzio in adapting CCTV [China Central television] for American distribution.”
CCTV is the Communist-government funded Chinese state TV channel that has also penetrated the U.S. media market, although in a more limited manner than Al Jazeera.
It appears that Terenzio is an acknowledged expert at getting media access for foreign propaganda channels. His background is quite impressive, as reflected in his official biography. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he is described as “a visiting lecturer at the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications graduate program in Los Angeles, and at the Tsinghua University School of Journalism in Beijing.”
In the case of Current TV, his idea was to get Al Jazeera into 40-50 million homes through the acquisition of an existing cable channel, Current TV, an unprecedented development that Terenzio maintains he was not compensated for. It is because of this media coup and the failure of Al Gore and the other owners and investors to pay him for his services that Terenzio has launched his lawsuit demanding at least $5 million in damages.
While the suit proceeds in the courts, the legal questions about the deal provide another opportunity for Congress to exercise oversight and investigate the curious transaction. But the fact that prominent Democrats are involved makes it politically sensitive for Republicans who want to avoid confrontations.
The suit says Terenzio made his presentation to Richard Blum, husband of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and an investor in Current TV. The suit says that Blum and others involved in Current TV were “concerned about the prospect of losing their shirts” and wanted to find a buyer for their little-watched channel.
The suit says that it was believed that Al Gore would find a sale to Al Jazeera “politically unappealing” but that Blum promised to present it to him.
“Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Gore was adamant in his rejection of the proposal to sell his liberal environmentally friendly network to the oil rich Qataris who owned Al Jazeera,” it says.
Al Gore apparently changed his mind. Perhaps the $500 million price tag, with $100 million going to him personally, was a factor.
When the sale was announced, Terenzio says he was caught off-guard and that he had not been informed in advance about it, even though he devised the sale and conceived the name “Al Jazeera America.” He says Current TV “insiders” concede his role in the transaction.
Jerry Kenney, a critic of Al Jazeera, says, “I have requested a copy of that PowerPoint presentation from his lawyer. I would love to see his game plan of how to make propaganda from a country that denies free speech to its own citizens and possibly provides material support to terrorists, ‘palatable’ to Congress and the American public.”
Kenney says Congress should request a copy of this PowerPoint as well.
The new developments add impetus to the effort by Rep. Tim Murphy for answers as to what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did or did not do regarding the deal.
Please urge Rep. Murphy to accelerate his investigation of the Al Jazeera deal by calling his office at 202-225-2301. Also, it is long overdue for Rep. Michael McCaul to do his duty and announce hearings into this curious transaction. His Committee on Homeland Security can be reached at 202-226-8417.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at email@example.com.