Sam Donaldson Thanks Anti-American TV Network Al-Jazeera

January 30th, 2011 12:59 PM

ABC News prominently featured the anti-American television network Al Jazeera on "This Week" Sunday.

Not only was the network's Washington bureau chief afforded a good amount of time during the Roundtable segment to sing Al Jazeera's praises, but as the show neared its conclusion, Sam Donaldson actually thanked the organization (video follows with transcript and commentary):

JAKE TAPPER, HOST: Abed, before we begin, there's been a lot of talk about the Egyptian government stopping the satellite feed of Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English in Cairo. What is the status of that? And what do you think that says about the way that the government there is trying to monitor the freedom of information?

AL JAZEERA WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA: Obviously, the offices of Al Jazeera in Cairo have been shut down. The -- as you mentioned, satellite, Nilesat, owned by the Egyptians on which -- on whose frequencies Al Jazeera has traditionally broadcast, has been switched off. So Al Jazeera has switched now to an Arab site.

Look, this is a classic example of a government in the region going in one way and its people going in another way, as far as coverage is concerned. We've heard this story about Al Jazeera from previous governments before.

I don't want to make too much propaganda for Al Jazeera, but let me just say this: Al Jazeera is an imperfect medium in an imperfect world. But the importance of what's going on in the Middle East right now, this is the story of a generation. Al Jazeera, despite its imperfections, has brought this story to 300 million people in the Arab world and beyond. This is a story of huge importance and consequence of the United States. And Al Jazeera is, in its own way, bringing this story to the United States, to the Arab world.

A few years ago, several years ago, Bill Clinton talked of Al Jazeera as a beacon of democracy. Should that be true, and to the extent that the United States is invested in the future of democracy in the Middle East, Al Jazeera will be an asset. It has provided a platform on which people in the Arab world, from one corner of it to the other, have expressed their grievances and aspirations.

For a guy who didn't "want to make too much propaganda for Al Jazeera," he sure did a fine job.

But the best was still to come as shortly before the show concluded, Donaldson put in his two cents:

SAM DONALDSON: May I say just a word -- talks about propaganda for Al Jazeera -- thank you for what you're doing. People say Al Jazeera fanned the flames here by bringing the fact that democracy is in existence and that people are being suppressed. That's what we need; we need more communication in the world. It's not Al Jazeera's fault...

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS: They watched Tunisia...

DONALDSON: ... that Mubarak is under a siege now.

GEORGE WILL: On the other hand, we in the media tend to think the media drives the world. And I have a feeling this would be going on across this region regardless of the media.

DONALDSON: But the world drives the world to the extent the world knows about what's happening everywhere else. That's what media does.

Maybe, but that's not what Al Jazeera does.

Did Donaldson and the producers of "This Week" forget that one of its own former reporters, David Marash, quit Al Jazeera English in 2008 specifically because of its anti-America bias?

Apparently so.

And as it pertains to this crisis in Egypt, contrary to Donaldson's assertions, there are some that believe Al Jazeera has indeed been fanning the flames in this region to oust pro-American governments. NewsMax reported Friday:

One big winner has emerged from the tear-gas-laced chaos erupting in Egypt and several other Middle East nations: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel that many U.S. leaders view as anti-American. [...]

Al Jazeera “has helped galvanize insurgents across the Arab world this week even before Egypt’s planned ‘Day of Unrest,’ or ‘Day of Rage’ depending on how you translate it,” according to New York magazine.

Observers say Al Jazeera’s reports, which are followed closely throughout the freedom-starved Middle East, contributed to the fall of former Tunisian President Ben Ali’s government.

That revolution in turn inspired the uprising in Egypt. Indeed, Al Jazeera media coverage has been the common theme as the contagion of civil unrest has spread from nation to nation.

One major factor propelling the rise of the satellite channel, according to New York magazine: It helped “shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago.”

Is this why you think Al Jazeera deserves thanks, Sam? Is that what you think media should do?