The backlash to al-Jazeera has begun: Accuracy in Media, the conservative watchdog group, has labeled the network a "Homeland Security threat" and is calling for a congressional probe into the "controversial operations of foreign propaganda channel" following its acquisition of Current TV this week.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League has announced it has ongoing concerns about the Qatari-owned network, due to “a troubling record” of giving "virulent anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic extremists access to its airwaves."
Al-Jazeera has long faced charges of anti-Americanism and even anti-Semitism from conservatives and pro-Israel groups, but it's English-language programming has received praise from politicians on both sides of the spectrum, especially during its coverage of the Arab Spring.
The New York Times editorial board today wrote that despite concerns of impartiality, "Al Jazeera could bring an important international perspective to American audiences and should be given a chance to prove itself commercially...," following Time Warner Cable's decision to drop Current TV after the acquisition. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who described the network as "anti-American," also said he was "not for censoring al-Jazeera."
The right sees it differently. Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid today called on the new House Homeland Security Committee "to examine how Al Jazeera’s anti-American programming is seeking to gain a dangerous foothold in the United States through the acquisition of Al Gore’s Current TV cable channel."
Kincaid said Al Jazeera’s U.S. ambitions pose “an unacceptable danger to American citizens by further adding to the potential for home-grown Jihadists inspired by Al Jazeera’s inflammatory programming.”
The Anti-Defamation League was more tempered in its press release: "Al Jazeera, whose major broadcast focus is in the Arab world, has a troubling record and history that is very disturbing, particularly in its Arabic language broadcasts," Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said in a statement. "It has exploited and exaggerated the Arab-Israel conflict in a heavy-handed and propagandistic manner, and always at the expense of Israel, while giving all manner of virulent anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic extremists access to its airwaves."
"However, in its English version lately Al Jazeera has toned down its anti-Israel propaganda," he continued. "Yet it continues to be of great concern. We will be watching and monitoring the broadcasts as they become available to a much wider audience in the United States."