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The Saudi Prince, The Mosque And Fox News

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The Saudi Prince, The Mosque And Fox News

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The Saudi Prince, The Mosque And Fox News

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The proposed construction of an Islamic center and mosque close�to ground zero has dominated headlines and airwaves lately. Fox News Channel has given it intense scrutiny.

Yet as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, the cable network shares some surprising ties to the very people its hosts are attacking.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Ground zero or not, mosque or not, the debates over on the Fox News Channel have returned repeatedly to the question of where the money will come from. Here's Laura Ingraham, substituting for Fox's Bill O'Reilly, challenging an official for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

(Soundbite of TV show)

Ms. LAURA INGRAHAM (Host, Fox News Channel): Funding and accessory to murder, those are just two points. Okay, well, you know, this disingenuous (unintelligible).

Unidentified Man: The funding thing is

Ms. INGRAHAM: The funding thing is critical.

FOLKENFLIK: Sean Hannity pointed to the imam involved: Feisal Abdul Rauf.

(Soundbite of TV show)

Mr. SEAN HANNITY (Host, Fox News Channel): Where's the moderation in this guy? I think he represents the radicalism that I find frightening.

FOLKENFLIK: On "Fox and Friends," Fox news analyst Dan Senor broke it down for host Brian Kilmeade.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Fox and Friends")

Mr. DAN SENOR (Fox News Analyst): The Kingdom Foundation, which has been a funder of imam Rauf in the past - the Kingdom Foundation, so you know, is this Saudi organization headed up by the guy who tried to give�Rudy Giuliani $10 million after 9/11 - that was sent back. He funds radical madrassas all over the world.

FOLKENFLIK: Not all Muslims would agree with that characterization of the madrassas. But indeed, the Kingdom Foundation has supported imam Rauf in the past. The guy behind the foundation is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king.�Others have a different view of Waleed - others like Rupert Murdoch, the controlling owner of News Corp, which is the parent company of Fox News.

Here's what Murdoch said in a 2005 documentary about the prince.

(Soundbite of documentary)

Mr. RUPERT MURDOCH (Owner, News Corp): Very shrewd, very analytical, yet at the same time, prepared to gamble and to go against the prevailing thoughts about markets. And so he's very original in his thinking.

FOLKENFLIK: The prince had long been Murdoch's business partner in News Corp., but that year he obtained more than 30 million voting shares. Al-Jazeera anchor Riz Khan wrote that documentary and a companion�biography. Khan says Waleed is friendly to Western interests and to Murdoch's.

Mr. RIZ KHAN (Writer, Anchor, Al-Jazeera): Rupert Murdoch said, well, the thing about the prince is, he's there for you. When you need the help, he's there. He will try and do his best to make things work.

FOLKENFLIK: Indeed, Waleed now holds 7 percent of the voting stock in News Corp., more than any other person not named Rupert Murdoch. And he has repeatedly voted to support Murdoch's priorities. Riz Khan asked Waleed about anger in some Arab circles about rhetoric on Fox.

Mr. KHAN: He said, look, you know, I'm not there to direct the news policy; I'm there to invest in News Corp. And hopefully, they've got some sense to, you know, do news properly.

FOLKENFLIK: But then neoconservative Muslim commentator Stephen Schwartz argues the prince's investments in charities show he wants to keep one foot in Western business and political circles, and the other in radical Islamic camps. Schwartz is director of the�Center for Islamic Pluralism.

Mr. STEPHEN SCHWARTZ (Commentator): Al-Waleed bin Talal wants to be seen as a modernizer and a person who's open to various points of view, but it always comes back to the grievance paradigm.

FOLKENFLIK: That exchange you heard earlier, involving Fox's Senor, was the only one I could find on the network that made direct reference to the prince. But Senor did not name Waleed, nor was he mentioned in any of the speculation about the financing for that proposed Islamic center in downtown Manhattan.

Yet, Waleed is hardly unknown to Fox. Anchor Neal Cavuto portrayed the prince as a savvy investor early this year.

(Soundbite of news clip)

Mr. NEAL CAVUTO (Anchor, Fox News): Because for this Saudi Arabian prince, it is about the long-term view. And Prince...

FOLKENFLIK: In an interview, the two men discussed Citigroup, which Waleed helped rescue twice, and his holdings in rival media giants Time Warner and Disney. Cavuto disclosed the prince's stake in News Corp., but Fox's intense coverage of the Islamic center, combined with its corporate connection to Waleed and its lack of disclosure. have drawn scorn from liberals, including -repeatedly - from satirist Jon Stewart.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Daily Show")

Mr. JON STEWART (Host, "The Daily Show"): My point is this: If we want to cut off funding to the terror mosque, we must, together as a nation, stop watching Fox.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. STEWART: It's the only way.

FOLKENFLIK: Bob Zelnick covered the Middle East for ABC News. He praises Fox's actual news coverage, but says a disclosure about Waleed might well have been warranted.

Mr. BOB ZELNICK (Journalist): I think in a circumstance where an apparent - or at least, arguably apparent - conflict of interest is present, the better part of valor is to simply broadcast information about the person in question.

FOLKENFLIK: But on this issue, it's hard to argue that Fox News has been cravenly promoting the interests of one of its parent company's primary owners, as confusing and as contradictory as that may seem to its critics.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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