The "gotcha" reporting of the Anderson Cooper program on CNN may have backfired, as a ministry organization in the United States now is going public with a long list of accusations that the AC360 employees lied about their "investigations" and actually used propaganda from a terror-linked organization for their story.
The recent programs concerned the work of Walid Shoebat and his foundation and related groups.
Reporter Andrew Griffin traveled to Rapid City, S.D., where Shoebat was speaking to a conference to confront him. He publicly accused a Shoebat associate of running a "scam."
"I gotta ask you because I do a lot of this type of reporting on charities, organizations that collect money… Everything is not very transparent. Are you running a scam?" Griffin asked.
Shoebat's associate, Keith Davies, refused to answer, instead suggesting Griffin look at the required government filings for the organization.
Griffin also tried to grill Shoebat on exactly where his funding that is allocated to help Christians in the Middle East goes.
Shoebat refused to answer. "If you disclose who you're helping, it ends up biting them," he warned.
The resulting program was aired this week, and has been posted online.
The YouTube videos indicated sparse viewership, with only a few hundred counts on each video to the point of this report.
The gist of the CNN report was to suggest that all was not as it should be in a legitimate ministry, with accusations that Shoebat was improperly accepting federal funding for his lectures – as a former terrorist – on terrorism, and other misbehavior.
Cooper and Griffin discussed how something "doesn't seem to add up" and how they were unable to confirm parts of Shoebat's biography by contacting officials in the Middle East.
As a result, Shoebat's organization confronted the network with: "If CNN is serious about the integrity of its news gathering some questions need to be asked concerning the agenda regarding this story as well as verifying for yourself as leaders of CNN News, the integrity of these journalists. If they lie about us then how can they be trusted with other important stories."
WND contacted CNN twice by e-mail, requesting a comment, and got only an automated response: "Thank you for the e-mail you sent to Anderson Cooper 360°. This auto reply is your notification that we have received your e-mail. While we are unable to personally reply to every e-mail, your comments are important to us, and we do read each and every one. Comments become part of the viewer response report that is prepared and made available each day to our producers and senior management. "
On the YouTube page for one of the videos, there were comments both in support of CNN and in support of Shoebat.
"CAIR (counsel for American islamification and repression) & and their friends at hamas would like to thank CNN for all their hard word on this story," wrote one forum participant.
Wrote another, "Hats off to AC… honest journalism."
But at the Walid Shoebat Foundation website there was a point-by-point rebuttal to the claims broadcast by CNN.
According to that document:
- "In Mr. Griffin's article he wrote: 'Neither Shoebat nor his business partner provided any proof of Shoebat's involvement in terrorism, despite repeated requests.'"
But the foundation said, "There were no repeated requests. What is damaging to CNN's credibility is that we have all the e-mail exchanges to prove that every request was answered and The Shoebat Foundation did respond to all of CNN's e-mails and was even offered several documents including credible witnesses to validate Mr. Shoebat's account:
"We will be willing to provide copies of documents that will answer your questions and witnesses on the condition that you guarantee they are protected and no names or photos or the contents of such documents will be made public. We will have you review these in person."
The foundation said CNN never complied.
- "CNN claimed that they investigated Mr. Shoebat and had asked several agencies about Shoebat's past."
The foundation said, "On Anderson Cooper 360, Griffin never released any interviews with any official agency; no interviews with any police official, government officials or any recorded calls or any memos or any e-mail correspondence (which we did) that validate any investigation took place with anyone."
We have also learned [through] unimpeachable sources that CAIR operatives secretly worked with CNN in carrying out this political assassination of Mr. Shoebat.
Additionally, if CNN released the entire interview between Mr. Griffin and Mr. Shoebat it will destroy the whole claim and prove that CAIR's input was evident. During the interview on tape Griffin claimed that he investigated Mr. Shoebat and found out that records show he was paid $13,000 and that he never had called Bank Leumi Branch in Bethlehem which today doesn't even exist.
In the interview Griffin simply was repeating an article written by CAIR, which falsely claimed that the Shoebat Foundation was paid $13,000. Anderson Cooper should review the entire interview, which is damaging to CNN. What Griffin did was simply rely on an article written by CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) based on an old article in which 3 x-terrorists were paid $13,000 in an event at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Griffin then changed his story to include the correct amount.
Griffin later found out that there was no Bank Leumi branch in Bethlehem to call since that branch was closed in which Griffin changed both stories with Cooper and lied intentionally. Griffin also stated that he checked with the Israeli police in Bethlehem when fact is, there is no Israeli police station in Bethlehem and the Palestinian Authorities would have no such records. Griffin later changed the story to say that he called Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv. Fact is, Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv has no such records either. Anyone can call Bank Leumi’s headquarters in Tel Aviv and check. We called ourselves and there are no records in Bank Leumi that tracks terrorist operations during 1976-1977.
- "Griffin claimed that he searched the Israeli prison records and there was nothing under the name Shoebat."
But the foundation said, "Shoebat's imprisonment can easily be verified with a click of a button since Mr. Griffin was not the only one investigating Mr. Shoebat's prison story. Journalist Eileen Fleming who attempted to debunk Mr. Shoebat's account on an OpedNews.com story had interviewed Shoebat's family who confirmed that Mr. Shoebat was indeed in prison.
The report states: "In 1976, his sister Mona was coming home from school with her friends and were stopped and beaten up by Israeli soldiers, they nearly broke Mona's back. This made Walid very angry and shortly thereafter he attended his first demonstration against the occupation. In 1977 Walid was caught distributing Palestinian flags and was arrested and held for about two weeks in Mascubia Prison, until his mother went to the embassy and got him released."
Further, the foundation said if CNN had reviewed the records that were offered, it would have discovered when Shoebat was arrested he held a U.S. passport, which has a different last name than the one he uses now.
Also, the foundation said Shoebat was not in jail for his bombing operation but for planning civil unrest in which he was released without charge since the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem intervened in the case.
- "CNN claimed that Walid’s cousin confirms that Walid was never a terrorist."
But the foundation said the relative, Daood Hassaan Shoebat, is not a credible witness since several of his other relatives, in fact, are terrorists and that "can be verified without a shadow of doubt.
- "Griffin claimed that there was never a 'firebomb' thrown on Bank Leumi and neither was there anything of that sort in Bethlehem Manger Square [during 1976-1977]."
But the foundation said Shoebat never made any claim that he threw a Molotov cocktail on a bank, which completely debunks Mr. Griffin's entire investigation. Why would anyone remember such a minor event? Instead, Shoebat had a real time bomb assembled by the notorious terrorist Mahmoud Al-Mughrabi whose account can be completely verified through United Nations reports and news agencies.
"The most damaging to Mr. Griffin's story is that there was a bombing at the Bank Leumi in Bethlehem's Manger Square – as described in Mr. Shoebat's books. What was not published in Walid's books was a later research that was also documented by the United Nations. Between December 24 and 27, there were two explosions in that area: "Bethlehem (in Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity)" and "Explosive charge went off outside the local Courthouse 27 December 1977 JP. 2 Jan. 1978 Yediot Aharonot, 2 January 1978."
- "Americans are wasting tax dollars in hiring Mr. Shoebat or ex-terrorists to explain terrorism."
The foundation said ex-terrorists know the mindset of attackers the best.
The foundation describes how Shoebat was recruited into the PLO by cellmate Mahmoud Al-Mughrabi, who led a bomb plot targeting Bank Leumi branches. Shoebat later fled to the U.S. and was mentored under Jamal Said, who is said to be an associate of Abdullah Assam, the godfather of al-Qaida.
"Walid's violent acts included street violence and hand-to-hand confrontations with Israeli forces. On one occasion Walid nearly lynched an Israeli soldier, which also can be confirmed by accessing Israeli news archives on March 18th as well as March 30th 1976. The news broadcaster was Karam Zarour (Oded Zarrai) who broadcast the news item on 8 p.m. news on the Arabic station on Israeli TV. CNN never accessed the archives," the group reported.
Davies told the network at one point, "We have been telling the truth so far and provided you with an initial report and will not continue this unless you agree to our request to protect individuals lives and admit your mistakes."