Ryan Mauro: You have devoted a lot of your time towards covering Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Can you tell us about him and why he warrants this attention?
Diana West: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is usually described as a billionaire Saudi businessman, but he is also a senior member of the Saudi monarchy. He is the nephew of the Saudi dictator, King Abdullah, and the first cousin of the Saudi interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. He is also the largest stakeholder in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. outside the Murdoch family.
We may not realize it, but most of us first heard about Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. That was when a “Saudi prince” — it was Alwaleed — became infamous for having donated $10 million to the Twin Towers Fund only to have then-mayor Rudy Giuliani return the check.
Why did Giuliani return the check? It became clear the prince wasn’t making a donation but rather a political statement. After presenting the money, the prince issued a press release blaming the 9/11 attacks on American support for Israel — while, as Alwaleed’s statement reads, “our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of the Israelis.”
Following Giuliani’s rebuff, Alwaleed opened his purse in 2002 to the families of killers instead, donating a whopping $27 million to a Saudi telethon raising money for the Committee for the Support of the al-Quds Intifada, a Saudi “charity” chaired by the then-Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia (now Crown Prince Nayef, another uncle of Alwaleed’s). He gave $500,000 that same year to CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas-linked group.
Also in 2002, however, Alwaleed seems to have had something of an epiphany. From the Arab News (which Alwaleed also owns): Arab countries can influence U.S. decision-making “if they unite through economic interests, not political,” Saudi Prince Alwaleed stressed. “We have to be logical and understand that the U.S. administration is subject to U.S. public opinion. We are not so active in this sphere [public opinion]. And to bring the decision-maker on your side, you not only have to be active inside the U.S. Congress or the administration but also inside U.S. society.”
Soon, the Saudi billionaire was spending his money quite differently — no more Palestinian grandstanding, no more Saudi telethons, no more CAIR. In 2005, Alwaleed purchased a 5.5 percent stake of voting stock in the Murdoch-owned News Corp (he now owns 7 percent). He also spent $40 million to enlarge Islamic studies on leading American campuses, donating $20 million to Harvard to create a university-wide Islamic studies program, which also boosted Islamic law (sharia) studies on campus, and $20 million to Georgetown to set up the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding under Islamic apologist John Esposito.
The News Corp. investment began paying off right away. Also in 2005, with Muslims rioting in Paris in the worst street violence since 1968, Alwaleed telephoned Rupert Murdoch, as Alwaleed himself told an audience in Dubai, and said “these are not Muslim riots, they are riots.” Presto, the Fox News crawl about “Muslim riots in Paris” across the bottom of the screen changed to “civil riots.”
Ryan Mauro: Is there any evidence of Alwaleed’s influence in the media since 2005?
Diana West: Alwaleed has not made news for bragging publicly about his influence over Fox News since that one incident in 2005. As for “evidence” of his influence, I know of no directive, no reported conversation, no “defector” from Fox or News Corp. reporting that Awaleed, or anyone else, has set guidelines for coverage.
But that’s not how influence usually works. It is intangible, something no more concrete than a rejected story, something no less natural than the body of stories that develops from such editorial discretion, which, of course, can also include positive reinforcement. Such stimuli may reflect active owner-influence. They may also reflect a more passive owner-influence as when an employee — producer, editor, writer, anchor, pundit — anticipates the boss’s desires and writes or reports a certain way. This phenomenon, of course, is by no means unique to Fox, just as it is by no means unique to journalism.
If we examine Fox’s body of work I believe the unspoken guidelines for coverage and discussion become quite clear. Fox News covers terrorism, war, national security. It does not cover, let alone chronicle, the introduction of sharia—Islamic law—into the West. It does not cover the massive ongoing Islamic movement by which the Western world is being rapidly Islamized. It does not cover what the Muslim Brotherhood calls “civilization jihad.” It does not cover the disappearance of Western culture in Europe. What we know as “political correctness” probably keeps such issues off the air in the mainstream media, but Fox makes a point of rising above such PC. I think the news vacuum we can see on Fox is at least partly a result of News Corp.’s Saudi influence.