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Strange bedfellows in Fox holes

The biggest shareholder of News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, is funding the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," or as it is in reality, Lower Manhattan Community Center. He's a Saudi Prince named Al-Waleed bin Talal, and he owns 7 percent of News Corp., which works out to over $2 billion.

He has directly funded Faisal Abdul Rauf's project to build in Manhattan to the tune of over $300,000.

Even more interesting is that bin Talal donated $500,000 to the Council on American-Islamic relations, an organization that has been repeatedly denounced on Fox News. Reportedly, News Corporation's founder, chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch, is also working with bin Talal on launching an Arabic news network that will compete with the often-maligned Al Jazeera.

On its own, this would be an interesting monkey wrench to throw into the ongoing criticisms of the proposed ground zero project happening daily on Fox News, calling it insulting, rubbing salt into wounds and countless other denigrations.

Adding to the story is the fact that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani refused a $10 million donation from Al-Waleed bin Talal after 9/11 as a result of the Saudi Prince's suggestion that U.S. policies in the Middle East contributed to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The chain of events, backroom discussions and big-money business dealings that have resulted in Murdoch partnering with the same man that Giuliani refused to accept a penny from - a man who is also funding the "mosque" project that Murdoch's cable news channel is opposing - is certainly something I'd like to have been a fly on the wall for.

It goes without saying that Fox News has not been doing a "fair and balanced" reporting job of explaining that while they criticize and demean the Islamic community center project day and night on their network, they are not reporting that the same individual who's funding it is the major shareholder, behind Murdoch and his family, of their parent company.

The next question is, what does it mean about Fox News?

On one hand, the argument could be made that Fox News is actually, as they claim, perfectly "fair and balanced," so much so that even a major shareholder funding this project would not get them to report on it in a favorable light.

More likely is that the narrative we've come to be so familiar with at Fox News is one they will stick to for its value as a business model, regardless of the funding and business deals happening behind the scenes, and that most likely the connection between their reporting and this Fox News shareholder, bin Talal, is not being taking into consideration on a day-to-day basis.

The way Gretchen Carlson and the rest of the Fox and Friends crew reacted to Newt Gingrich's recent statement that building this "mosque" would be like the Nazi's putting a sign up next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. - that is, they didn't react at all - tells us just about everything we need to know about how "friendly" guests and contributors are handling the story on-air.

Where will this story go from here?

To be honest, I'm not sure, but the focus of the argument against the building of this community center may shift towards Faisal Abdul Rauf.

Last week on Midweek Politics, I interviewed Walid Shoebat, a self-proclaimed "reformed Palestinian terrorist" who claims to have translated Arabic recordings of Rauf, the Sufi imam planning to build near ground zero. Shoebat says Rauf makes very clear anti-American statements and indicates less-than-friendly intentions towards the U.S.

Sadly, my Arabic is not at the same level as Shoebat's, so I was unable to obtain and translate the recordings referred to in time for the interview. My research on Rauf shows conflicting reports about his attitude towards the U.S. and his intentions, and I won't speculate further in the absence of more data. But there is no shortage of those who believe he is not a threat of any kind, and some who believe the opposite altogether.

Rauf could very well become the center of the argument moving forward, and framing him as the risk would allow those who oppose the community center to shift their public opposition away from the features and location of the building itself, instead focusing on the concerns about the specific individual behind the project.

I wouldn't be too sure, though. Even after asking Walid Shoebat roughly 10 times how far would be far enough from ground zero to build an actual mosque if he didn't have a specific problem with Faisal Abdul Rauf, I still didn't get an answer. Whatever the truth is about Rauf, our audience is mixed. In the 24 hours since the broadcast of my interview with Shoebat, emails have ranged from "This is a trap. Rauf wants to cause civil unrest," to "What happened to America's commitment to religious freedom?"

We'll see where it goes next.

David Pakman of Northampton, host of "Midweek Politics with David Pakman," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at


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