By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
Once labeled the voice of al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood channel known as Al Jazeera has been desperately trying to present itself as a respectable “news” operation with high journalistic standards. Incredibly, the Arab/Muslim terrorist connections didn’t hurt the channel’s ability to move into the U.S. media market. But now, its treatment of some well-respected American professional athletes may have damaged the foreign-funded propaganda organization beyond repair.
The Al Jazeera spin-off known as Al Jazeera America is accused in a lawsuit of using “false and unsubstantiated allegations” in order to damage the reputation of Washington Nationals baseball player Ryan Zimmerman, a major sports figure in the nation’s capital who raises money for charitable causes. Zimmerman and others are accused of using a performance-enhancing drug known as Human Growth Hormone (HGH).
The suit says the unsubstantiated allegations were “based on uncorroborated accusations by a third party that had been unequivocally recanted” prior to the airing of the charges. That third party, Charlie Sly, apparently worked at the Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine in Indianapolis, the alleged source of the HGH shipments, as a low-level employee. But it’s not exactly clear when that was, and he now claims he made up the allegations.
The charges against Zimmerman and other professional athletes were included in a report titled, “The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers.” It aired on December 27, 2015.
Despite the channel’s foreign terrorist connections, a constituency for anti-American coverage has emerged in the United States. It has taken in not only Al Jazeera but Moscow’s propaganda outlet Russia Today (RT), which has a presence in tens of millions of homes through Comcast. Some are praising Al Jazeera America for trying to tear down a “white American hero,” a reference to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, another target of the allegations. Al Jazeera claimed that HGH was provided to Manning through his wife, Ashley.
Doping scandals and lying about them do occur in sports. In one of the most famous cases, bicyclist Lance Armstrong denied and then finally admitted to doping throughout his career. But so far at least, Al Jazeera’s “journalists” are the ones in this instance who are looking like dopes. Not only have they lodged unconfirmed charges against Zimmerman, Manning and others, but they have dragged Manning’s wife into the mess.
Manning said he was sickened, disgusted, and angry about the charges. He said he got treatment at the institute but never received HGH. He said, “The allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up. It never happened. Never. I really can’t believe somebody would put something like this on the air. Whoever said this is making stuff up.”
Alluding to the questionable nature of the allegations and lack of evidence for them, Manning said, “I’m not sure how someone can admit making something up about somebody, admit that he made it up, and yet it somehow is published in a story.” Calling the charges “defamation” and hurtful to his family, he said he wouldn’t lose any sleep over the “lies” and would concentrate on winning NFL football games.
Fighting back, one Manning supporter posted a comment on an Al Jazeera website that referred to “the lazy Arabs in Qatar,” the financial backers of the channel, being “the most overweight nation in the world.” Indeed, Qatar isreported to have “the highest per capita wealth in the world,” making it the obesity capital of the world, with over half the population overweight.
As the charges go back and forth, serious questions are raised about how the foreign-funded channel went about documenting its allegations and whether its reporters and sources can be trusted.
It’s possible that the allegations, no matter how questionable, could lead to more investigations of professional sports. But it may also be possible that the controversy over Al Jazeera America’s “reporting” will help prompt Congress to finally take a look at how this foreign-funded propaganda outlet literally bought its way into the U.S. media market.
In that regard, Al Jazeera can fight the suit and even pay millions in damages, as a result of the deep pockets of the Emir of Qatar, and still stay on the air indefinitely.
The case, however, sheds light on those in the media who take the channel seriously as a news outlet. Indeed, the Al Jazeera program was provided in advance to The Huffington Post, a sleazy, far-left news publication that published an article with an embedded link to the show on December 26. The Huffington Post regularly cooperates with Al Jazeera.
Following up on the dubious story, Al Jazeera America has now run a column, “Blame capitalism for doping in sports,” which repeats many of the unsubstantiated claims against American pro athletes. The author, Bhaskar Sunkara, is described as the founding editor of Jacobin, a Marxist website.
He conveniently ignores the fact that “capitalism” has been a draw for foreign athletes, including many who have fled Communist Cuba to get a chance to play in the major leagues.
If capitalism was the target, Al Jazeera has missed the mark, as the Zimmerman lawsuit rips the standards and practices of the channel to pieces. The suit says that the Al Jazeera personnel “knew full well that their ‘source’ had recanted his scandalous and untrue allegations against Mr. Zimmerman but, abdicating all journalistic responsibilities, Defendants nonetheless chose to publish their defamatory story in an attempt to stir scandal and increase Al Jazeera’s low ratings, no matter the cost to Mr. Zimmerman.”
In legal terms, the defendants are accused of knowing the charges were false, and having “a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of those statements.”
The suit says they:
- knew that the motivations of their sole source were questionable;
- lacked any details tending to establish the veracity of the source’s allegations;
- failed to uncover any confirming facts as to these allegations, notwithstanding a purported six-month undercover operation related to same;
- refused to further investigate the sole source of these allegations, or to identify said source, despite Mr. Zimmerman’s repeated requests prior to publication regarding same; and
- knew prior to publication that the sole source of the allegations had recanted these allegations.
The allegation against Zimmerman not only damages the baseball player’s reputation, the suit says, but could damage his ability to raise money for humanitarian and charitable causes. “The financial impact of this harm on Mr. Zimmerman ultimately will be in the millions of dollars,” it says.
Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies has also sued the channel over its allegations against him. Howard said, “Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies. I will have no further comment, as the filing itself contains all I need to say.”
The Zimmerman suit identifies Al Jazeera America as part of the Al Jazeera Media Network, “a Qatar-based news network that, upon information and belief is owned or funded by the government of Qatar.” Qatar is an oil and gas-rich Arab dictatorship which tolerates no freedom of the press at home.
In fact, of course, there is much more to the Al Jazeera network, as Accuracy in Media has been reporting for years. The channel is a mouthpiece for the pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, and was a faithful voice of al-Qaeda for many years.
Explaining why the channel would go public with the false allegations, the suit notes that in 2013 the Al Jazeera Media Network spent $500 million to buy Current TV and start Al Jazeera America, but that it has been “plagued with low ratings” since its launch. In other words, the channel was desperate for ratings.
The transaction enriched former Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Al Gore, one of the owners of Current TV. Congress refused to investigate the circumstances surrounding the unusual sale.
After documenting resignations and chaos at the channel, the suit notes that an “Investigative Unit” was established whose purpose was described as follows: “Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit does not report the news, it makes the news.”
It appears that the channel made up the news based on a dubious and unverified source.
The suit names the assistant to Al Jazeera America reporter Deborah Davies as Liam James Collins, “a known fraudster and publicity-seeker.” Both Davies and Collins are citizens of Britain and are named as defendants. Davies went on Al Jazeera to defend the report.
Zimmerman’s lawyers are demanding not only monetary damages but the removal of “all false and defamatory statements” about the baseball player from Al Jazeera’s website and its YouTube site, and an injunction requiring the defendants “to publish a retraction of all false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff in the New York Times or a similar newspaper with nationwide distribution.”
The channel claims to operate under a “Code of Ethics,” a statement still on its website that includes adherence “to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political over professional consideration.”
It appears, however, that the need for ratings and viewers took precedence over old-fashioned objective news reporting.
Perhaps the Sunni Emir of Qatar ought to pull the plug on Al Jazeera and use the funds to buy some military equipment for defense against Shiite Iran.