Joel Mowbray reports: The drumbeat begins

Joel Mowbray ([email protected]) writes:

In what could prove a very significant development, Rep. Steve Rothamn (D-NJ) yesterday called for the firing of Al-Hurra news director Larry Register. This came on the same day the Wall Street Journal published my follow-up column on the U.S.-funded network, detailing how Al-Hurra provided fawning coverage of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial confernce in Tehran last December.
Ironically, he announced his demand for Register’s firing at a previously scheduled event about the prevalence of Holocaust denial in Arab media. It appears that the U.S.-funded Arab station adding fuel to that fire convinced the Congressman that Register must go.
Normally, a single Congressman calling for the dismissal of someone in an administration run by the other party wouldn’t mean much. That might be the case here, but not likely. Rothman is a respected member of the relatively small panel (13 members) responsible for funding Al-Hurra, the U.S. taxpayer-financed Arab TV network. And not only is he in the majority, he works well with Republicans.
Judging by his impassioned speech yesterday afternoon, where he was the keynote speaker at a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) event, Rothman will not be content with merely issuing a press release. Smart money says that he’ll be lobbying his colleagues, particularly on the powerful Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee, and making sure they understand why Register needs to be canned.
Luckily for Rothman, his colleagues probably won’t be as oddly obstinate as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the folks who are supposed to prevent the very stuff that has happened at Al-Hurra. The BBG has not issued a public statement about my Wall Street Journal column yesterday, and the board hasn’t yet fired Register.
What’s taking the BBG so long? DVDs of the broadcasts cited in my column could be made in almost no time, and rush transcripts can be done easily within a day. The sad thing is that the BBG might not even bother to inquire. The board’s response to my original March 12 column on Al-Hurra was to vote 5-1 not to investigate. A BBG spokesman this morning said he knows of no special action being taken by the board in light of the new revelations about Register’s Al-Hurra.
Making the board’s intransigence truly puzzling is that no one on the panel is particularly close to Register. And all indications are that before March 12, BBG members knew little about how bad things had become at Al-Hurra. Had they cut bait and fired Register at the March 13 meeting, it wouldn’t have been their mess. Even ordering an investigation would have created distance.
An unrelated clash might be playing a role. Outgoing chairman Ken Tomlinson is despised by his fellow board members, who point to his resignation in 2005 as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting following a negative Inspector General’s report. Since Tomlinson was the first on the board to criticize Register, perhaps the BBG is doing something stupid on “principle.” But by backing Register blindly, the board knowingly tethered its reputation to someone who we now know aired puff pieces on Holocaust deniers.
Since the people charged with oversight of Al-Hurra have decided to abdicate that responsibility, Congress has stepped in. Unfortunately for BBG members, the opponent they drew in Rep. Rothman is ideally situated to do what they should have done back in March: fire Larry Register.

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