Prince Al-Walid bin Talal
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox News Channel, strengthened his strategic partnership with Prince Al-Walid bin Talal, acquiring a stake in the Saudi royal’s Rotana media conglomerate.
As WND reported, the Saudi prince, who owns a 5.7 percent share of Fox News, claimed in 2005 he persuaded Murdoch to immediately stop the top-rated cable network from identifying unrest in France as “Muslim riots.”
Daily Variety reported News Corp. will take a 10 percent stake in Rotana, with an option to acquire another 10 percent.
The paper said the News Corp.–Rotana pact marks the most significant investment yet by a Western media company in the Arab world.
Last summer, News Corp.’s Fox and Rotana launched two Fox-branded English-language channels in the Middle East. Rotana also has a deal to distribute Fox fare on DVD throughout the Middle East, Variety said.
The new pact will include the launch of new Fox-Rotana TV channels.
Variety said the deal will help Walid’s cash flow, which has been hit hard by the global economic recession, particularly his large stake in Citigroup bank.
In 2005, Walid recounted his influence on the Fox News Channel’s coverage of Muslims during a panel at the Arab and World Media Conference in Dubai. He noted that during violent street protests in France, Fox News ran a banner at the bottom of the screen that said “Muslim riots.”
“I picked up the phone and called Murdoch … [and told him] these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty,” Al-Walid said.
“Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots.”
WND asked Fox News, at the time, to respond. Spokeswoman Irena Briganti said she was not aware of any phone call from the prince but acknowledged the network changed the banner after receiving complaints.
“We had several calls from people around the world and discovered the issue was a little more complicated than how it was being characterized,” she said.
Al-Walid drew international attention in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when his $10 million gift was rejected by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The prince visited the site of the World Trade Center in October 2001 and presented Giuliani with the donation to a relief fund, calling the terrorist attacks “a tremendous crime.”
But in a written statement issued by his publicist during the visit, the prince appeared to place blame for the attacks on the U.S.
“At times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack,” he said. “I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.”
An angered Giuliani returned the donation. A few days later, the prince blamed the mayor’s decision on “Jewish pressures.”
The prince reportedly gave half a million dollars to the controversial U.S. Muslim lobby group Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, in 2002 for a campaign to defend Islam in U.S. society.
The donation, given to Executive Director Nihad Awad during a visit to Saudi Arabia, helped buy a collection of Islamic books for 3,000 public libraries in the U.S. The contribution also financed a media campaign in the U.S. for CAIR.
A new WND Books publication, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” presents firsthand evidence CAIR is acting as a front for a well-funded conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood – the parent of al-Qaida and Hamas – to infiltrate the American system and help pave the way for Saudi-style Islamic law to rule the U.S.
An estimated 80 percent of U.S. mosques are supported largely with funds and imams from Saudi Arabia, where the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam dominates the kingdom.
WND reported in 2005 the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings in 2005 in response to a yearlong study by a Washington human-rights group asserting the government of Saudi Arabia was disseminating propaganda through American mosques that teaches hatred of Jews and Christians and instructs Muslims that they are on a mission behind enemy lines in a land of unbelievers.
Fifteen senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., responded to the report by the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House with a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding the Bush administration take stronger action against Riyadh.