Monthly Archives: January 2010

N.H. television station cuts off Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera English newsroom in Doha, Qatar

New Hampshire-based media commentator, political activist and all-around force of nature Deborah “Arnie” Arnesen may lose her gig as a contributor to Al Jazeera English, the English-language service of the Qatar-based news service.

Last week WMUR-TV (Channel 9) in Manchester, N.H., apparently shut off access to Al-Jazeera, which Arnesen had used to broadcast several segments. According to the Concord Monitor, Arnesen had been scheduled to appear on Al-Jazeera to discuss President Obama’s outreach to women and minorities. Instead, she had to do it by phone.

The Monitor reports that WMUR has not responded to requests for comment. But Sarah Alansary, a producer for Al Jazeera, is quoted as saying the station sent a message cutting off access:

They sent an e-mail telling them sorry, the studio’s no longer booked for you. We don’t wish to do business with your organization. I don’t know what’s the reason.

Unless someone from WMUR chooses to speak, it’s hard to know what’s going on. But by staying silent, station management has fostered the perception that it doesn’t want to do business with Al Jazeera, which is controversial in some circles, for political reasons.

“Every candidate on the planet who thinks of running for president is coming here,” Arnesen tells the Monitor. “Don’t you want the Middle East to know what’s going on? What message are they sending by shutting them off?”

I spoke briefly with Arnesen about this last week. Needless to say, she was perplexed and annoyed.

Al Jazeera is a legitimate news organization. As this New York Times “Topics” page notes, Al-Jazeera reaches 40 million viewers around the world, and it acts as a wire service for CNN and other American news operations. The perspective it offers is quite different from that of the Western media, but isn’t that the point?

Al Jazeera English is available on very few U.S. cable systems, but it does offer a YouTube channel. Its current lead story — about drug addiction in Iran — is exactly the sort of thing you’re unlikely to see on American television.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Beating Scott Brown

A lot of Democrats assume they’ll be able to take back Scott Brown’s Senate seat (No! It’s the people’s seat!) when he comes up for re-election in 2012.

But take a look at the list of likely challengers Boston Phoenix political columnist David Bernstein has come up with. Marty Meehan? Vicki Kennedy? Frankly, if Brown can find a way to establish himself as a moderate, Massachusetts-style Republican while not alienating the national party leadership, he could be in for a long run.

The only significant new talent to emerge on the Democratic side in Massachusetts in the past 20 years is Gov. Deval Patrick. He’s had a rough time in office. But if he can somehow win re-election, he might be the best of the Democratic contenders against Brown.

Hudak used birther code name for Obama

Republican congressional candidate William Hudak has apologized to Sen.-elect Scott Brown for incorrectly claiming that Brown had endorsed his campaign. But questions remain about Hudak who, in the face of evidence to the contrary, continues to insist that he’s not a birther. A statement issued by the Hudak campaign includes this:

“What is most distressing is the extent to which left-wing bloggers continue to use smear tactics, including trying to portray me as a ‘birther’ and falsely denigrate and accuse Senator-elect Brown of being of that belief,” Hudak said. “Let me make clear that while I don’t agree with everything he does, President Obama is our President and I believe he was born in the United States, and accusations that he was not are unsupported nonsense and non-issues to the business of our country,” Hudak remarked.

Hudak is right — claims that Obama was not born in the United States are indeed “unsupported nonsense.” But in a Web video sent to me by a reader, Hudak refers to Obama as “Barry Soetoro.” Obama was known as Barry Soetoro (his stepfather’s last name) when he attended school in Indonesia. According to Snopes.com, some elements of the birther movement have seized on that fact in the hopes of proving either that Obama was not born in the U.S., or that he gave up his American citizenship at some point.

The video interview, which Hudak did with a woman who calls herself the Ultimate First Amendment Patriot, is devoted to the various stickers Hudak has plastered on his truck. Following a discussion of Thomas Jefferson, Hudak says (around the 2:09 mark):

The way that this is being handled is by the folks in Washington, such as Miss Pelosi, who I quite frankly characterize with a caricature as Porky Pelosi. In this commonwealth of Massachusetts, another gentleman by the name of Mr. Patrick, who I characterize as Tax Patrick on the back, as well as the king honcho, Mr. Obama, who is also known, or not so widely known, as Barry Soetoro. These are the gentlemen and the ladies who are the inspirational leaders for turning America into more of a socialistic country than the American democracy that we are designed and founded on and our traditions.

Toward the end of the video, we are treated to some shots of his truck, including his “NOBAMA” license plate and a huge message on the back that plays on Obama’s name with “One Big Ass Mistake America.”

Recall, too, that before yesterday, the only two newspapers that had ever reported Hudak believed Obama was not a native-born American were the Tri-Town Transcript and the Salem News. Editors at both papers have told Media Nation that Hudak never sought a correction.

Finally, a clarification. I’ve been a little hazy on the sequence by which the Transcript and the News first reported that Hudak held birther views, and that he’d put up a sign in his yard depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden.

As I have noted, the Transcript reported it first, in November 2008. But Nelson Benton’s column in the Salem News came nearly a year later, in September 2009. The reason the Transcript did not identify Hudak as a congressional candidate is that he was not running at that point. Hudak announced his candidacy in August 2009.

Good for speech, bad for democracy?

My heart is telling me one thing and my head another following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remove political-speech restrictions on corporations and, by implication, labor unions.

On the one hand, I had been looking forward to this. I am close to being a First Amendment absolutist, and I gag instinctively at the idea that any form of political speech should be restricted, theories about corporate personhood aside.

On the other hand, we know what’s going to happen, don’t we? It’s bad enough that Congress can’t get health care right thanks to the doleful effects of corporate lobbying. And I do wonder why the Court had to overturn restrictions on corporations that extended back a century.

For the time being, I’m going to punt, and link to an article I wrote for the Boston Phoenix in 2003 on a corporate-speech case involving Nike.

Brown and Hudak speak

(Breaking, 2:30 p.m.: Hudak apologizes to Brown. See Tony Schinella’s comment for details.)

Three new developments in the matter of whether U.S. Sen.-elect Scott Brown endorsed congressional candidate William Hudak, who reportedly has denied that President Obama was born in the United States (he now denies the denial), and who offended his Boxford neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign by putting a sign on his property comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden.

1. Brown tells the Boston Globe that Hudak put out a press release touting Brown’s endorsement without his knowledge or permission. “I haven’t spoken to Bill at all,’’ Brown said. “I understand he made a press release of some sort. But I wasn’t aware of it, and we’ve asked him to retract it.”

But Brown also reportedly “dodged” on the matter of whether he would endorse Hudak. Wrong question. Brown should have been asked whether he’d said anything to Hudak that would lead him to believe he already had Brown’s endorsement.

Still, Brown’s comments are in accord with a statement put out yesterday by his spokesman, Felix Browne. The most likely scenario remains that Brown said something Hudak wrongly interpreted as an endorsement.

2. Hudak, in an interview with the Salem News, says, “There’s no question that he [Brown] gave me his endorsement,” citing a “private conversation” the two men had. He also says he did not see the press release his own campaign put out touting the alleged endorsement, but that it’s OK with him: “I trust my campaign staff to do what they need to do.”

So now we have a press release filled with direct quotes from both Brown and Hudak, and both men say they were unaware of it before it went out. It reminds me of the time that David Wells claimed he’d been misquoted in his own autobiography.

Neither the Globe nor the News credits Media Nation for bringing this story to light yesterday. No big deal, but the News allows Hudak to blame it on “Democrats,” and to refer to the whole matter as “very clearly politically motivated.”

The implication left hanging is that political operatives put this out there. The reality is that I have a memory like an elephant for certain things. I’m not a Democrat. As for being partisan, I’ve been complimentary toward Brown and his staff for the way they’ve handled this.

3. As Hudak’s spokesman did yesterday in The Hill, Hudak, in his interview with the News, denies that he believes Obama was born outside the United States. News reporter Stacie Galang writes, “Hudak said he has clarified his stance, but it continues to be repeated, wrongfully, in the press. It’s ‘not even an issue.'”

Hudak’s alleged birther views have been reported in two papers: the Tri-Town Transcript, which published the original story in November 2008, and in a column by Nelson Benton in the Salem News, which pointed out, as the Transcript had not, that Hudak was a Republican candidate for Congress.

In an e-mail to Media Nation, Benton says Hudak has “never asked for a correction.” An editor for GateHouse Media, which owns the Transcript, told me last night that he hopes to provide some information to me later today.

Update: Hudak never asked the Transcript for a correction, either, according to Peter Chianca, managing editor of GateHouse Media New England’s North Unit. Chianca e-mails: “David Rogers, the Transcript’s editor at the time, says that Hudak did not ask for a correction after the story ran.”

Earlier coverage.