An al-Jazeera reporter traveling across the U.S. to talk to people about the impact of 9/11 got a less than warm welcome when he arrived at a high school football game in Booker, Texas Friday.
Gabriel Elizondo explains on al-Jazeera’s site that things were going well until he gave the principal his al-Jazeera business card. The principal immediately went to find the high school superintendent, Michael Lee, who was none too pleased about the reporter’s visit.
An excerpt of Elizondo’s account:
[Lee]: “I think it was damn rotten what they did.”
“I am sorry, what who did?” I say, not sure exactly if he was calling me rotten, the terrorists rotten, al-Jazeera rotten, or all of the above.
“The people that did this to us,” he says back to me with a smirk, still glaring uncomfortably straight at my eyes.
“Well, I think it was bad too,” I say. “Well, do you think, sir, we can film a bit of the game and talk to some people here about just that?”
“No. You can't film, you can't take pictures, or interview people.”
“OK, can I ask why? And if you allow me can I explain…”
“No, I just expect that you will respect it.”
Clearly he didn’t want to hear anything from me.
Al-Jazeera is not welcome here.
The international news network headquartered in Doha, Qatar, and broadcasting to 190 million households around the world has had a negative reception in the U.S. since the Bush administration, which criticized al-Jazeera reports as biased against Americans.
Leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon hired the Rendon Group to monitor news reports, particularly from al-Jazeera, for anti-American bias. After al-Jazeera broadcast graphic footage from Iraq, U.S. officials called al-Jazeera anti-American and said it incited violence. In 2003, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq both banned al-Jazeera from their trading floors.
Since the Arab Spring began, however, al-Jazeera has increasingly gained popularity in the U.S. because of its solid coverage of the protests rocking the Middle East. Some Americans have even started a campaign to demand the network be offered by their cable carrier.
But along with new praise for the network has come criticism, some of it related to the network’s ties to the Qatari government, and much of it — as Elizondo’s report shows — a renewal of older views that the network is too graphic, encourages terrorists, or is anti-American.