Joel Mowbray reports: Register’s on the ropes

Joel Mowbray ([email protected]) continues his investigation into Al-Hurra, the U.S. taxpayed-funded Arab TV network. And he’s not done yet; he promises more next week.

Even though he has the enthusiastic backing of Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, embattled Al-Hurra news director Larry Register has few remaining supporters. Even former allies at Al-Hurra’s oversight panel, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, have cooled on him, as evidenced the BBG’s resfusal to defend Register by name in a letter to the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
Things are looking grim for Register. Nine of the 13 members of the powerful panel responsible for funding Al-Hurra — as well as the State Deparment and foreign aid — recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Rice demanding that Register be fired.
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a respected and hawkish member of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, spearheaded the letter, which was signed by five Democrats and four Republicans. In direct fashion, the letter announces its attention at the very top: “[W]e are calling on you to urge the Broadcasting Board of Governors to replace Larry Register as News Director of the U.S. taxpayer-funded Alhurra television network.”
It appears that Rothman’s strongest motivation for rallying his colleagues to seek Register’s firing was frustration with how Al-Hurra’s news director has performed since my March 12 column in the Wall Street Journal.
“More than six months have gone by since Mr. Register’s initial mistakes, and two months since news reports outlining his errors. However, in all of that time, Mr. Register has not acknowledged to American taxpayers that he made mistakes nor does he seem capable of regaining Congress’ confidence in his leadership,” explained Rothman in a statement accomanying public release of the letter.
The letter’s timing is particularly significant. The subcommittee formally will take up next week the Fiscal Year 2008 spending bill — and thus, Al-Hurra’s funding for next year. This is the last time of year during which State wants to test the panel’s wrath.
Though no formal strategy has been announced, several offices contacted on the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee did not rule out the possibility of withholding funds from Al-Hurra if Register stays on as news director.
Also next week, the House Middle East subcommittee of Foreign Affairs is holding hearings on public diplomacy, and the day’s second panel will feature two Democratic BBG members. If they try to defend Register’s record, they would almost certainly find hostility from members of both parties. If the BBG members come in apologetic and attempt to level with the subcommittee about a pattern of bad news decisions, however, they might find a warmer welcome.
Then again, given the record already compiled by Larry Register in giving a platform to Islamic terrorists and Holocaust deniers, the only solution that would truly satisfy Congress would be firing Register.

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