Alex Constantine - August 28, 2010
" ... One of the original board members of the nonprofit group promoting the 13-story mosque and 'cultural center' took the job as a favor to James A. Baker III ... According to bin Talal's biography, he and Baker met regularly in Houston to discuss business in the 1990s, when bin Talal was a Carlyle Group client of Baker. ... Critics call bin Talal an 'agent of Saudi influence' who has even marshaled direct influence over editorial content at Fox. ... "
Excerpt: "The Fox News connection to Ground Zero mosque"
The Saudi prince whose post-9/11 relief check was rejected by former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani has found a more willing recipient in the city for his millions: the head of the Ground Zero mosque project.
The same Saudi potentate, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, owns the biggest chunk of the parent company of the Fox News Channel outside of the Murdoch family.
Former Bush advisers have similar ties to the prince and the proposed mega-mosque in Manhattan, which may explain why they've asked Republicans to soften their opposition to it.
WND has learned that one of the original board members of the nonprofit group promoting the 13-story mosque and "cultural center" took the job as a favor to James A. Baker III, the former President George H.W. Bush official and lawyer who defended Saudi government officials against a lawsuit filed by families of 9/11 victims. Baker has counted bin Talal as a client.
Bin Talal has pumped more than $300,000 into the project headed by New York imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as part of the prince's campaign to "improve the image of Islam in the American public." The prince's charitable foundation in 2008 gave $125,000 to Rauf, which came on the heels of an earlier $180,000 gift, according to the Arab press.. ...
Critics call bin Talal an "agent of Saudi influence" who has even marshaled direct influence over editorial content at Fox. He once boasted of persuading producers to change a screen banner under video footage of Muslims rioting in France to remove its Islamic reference.
"I picked up the phone and called [New Corp. chief Rupert] Murdoch," bin Talal said. "Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from 'Muslim riots' to 'civil riots.'"
Fox does not deny his account.
Leading Fox News opinion hosts, however, have been editorializing against the Ground Zero mosque plan. Bill O'Reilly has called for it to be built elsewhere, and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck have spoken against it. Yesterday, the three hosts of "Fox and Friends" – Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade – agreed it should not be built near the World Trade Center site.
Bin Talal, News Corp.'s second-largest shareholder outside the Murdoch clan, has described his relationship with Murdoch's son and heir-apparent James Murdoch as "very close."
"If he (Rupert) doesn't appoint him, I'll be the first one to nominate him to be the successor of Mr. Rupert Murdoch, God forbid if something happens to him," bin Talal told Charlie Rose in a recent TV interview.
After 9/11, Rauf co-founded the Cordoba Initiative with former Aspen, Colo., Mayor John S. Bennett, which explains why Cordoba's tax filings list an Aspen address. During his four terms as mayor, Bennett was introduced to bin Talal and other Saudi royals, who own chalets and other properties in Aspen (Bennett's own home is valued at more than $2 million). Bin Talal met his second wife in Aspen.
Before taking over Cordoba as executive director, Bennett headed the Aspen Institute, which included among its board members former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice has appeared with Rauf at events in Washington and overseas.
Aspen Institute recently launched the Middle East Leadership Initiative with "generous support" from Saudi Arabia. AbuSulayman, bin Talal's aide, is an Aspen Institute Middle East fellow.
Cordoba's tax filings show that Julia A. Jitkoff of Kingsville, Texas, was a director before resigning in 2007. Sources say the Texas socialite was sponsored by "longtime friend" Jim Baker, who sits on the board of her family's King Ranch holding company.
FEC records show Jitkoff and her family gave over $30,000 to the Bush-Cheney campaigns. Cordoba's 2008 IRS statement shows its books are kept by Kay Zimm of Kingsville.
According to bin Talal's biography, he and Baker met regularly in Houston to discuss business in the 1990s, when bin Talal was a Carlyle Group client of Baker. Joining them for business lunches at the Bayou Club was former President George H.W. Bush, a senior Carlyle adviser at the time.
Baker's Houston law firm, Baker & Botts, which defended Saudi officials against the 9/11 lawsuit, is one of the top international firms specializing in Shariah-compliant finance – another hobbyhorse of bin Talal.
Bin Talal in 2007 donated $250,000 to the James Baker III Institute at Rice University.
Bennett is also close to the Bush family. He graduated from both Yale University and Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. In 2002, bin Talal donated $500,000 to help fund the George Herbert Walker Bush Scholarship at Phillips Academy.
The Cordoba Initiative is promoting the Ground Zero mosque. According to its tax filing, its mission statement, among other things, is to "address the root causes of international terrorism."
Cordoba was the center of the Islamic caliphate in Spain, and the Cordoba mosque was built over the cathedral there.
Rauf has also worked on a documentary film – "Out of Cordoba" – by New York director Jacob Bender, a peace activist and Islamic apologist. The 2008 film, for which Rauf is listed as an adviser, purports to document how Islam led Europe out of the Dark Ages.
"Cordoba was the most advanced city on the European continent," Bender says.
He also claims it was the most tolerant, allowing Christianity and Judaism to "coexist" with Islam.
Bender said he made the film to respond to "growing evidence of Islamophobia and attacks upon Muslims," adding that "negative stereotypes about the Muslim are the result of ignorance."
"American society has always been quite isolated, not wanting to know about the rest of the world. Secondly, American popular cultures always needed an enemy to confront," he said. "First it was the native Americans, [then] Germans in World War I, and later the communists."
Then came 9/11 and the war on terror. "In recent years people in the United States looked to justify the huge military budget by finding a new enemy in the Arab and Muslim world," Bender continued. "The 9/11 and al-Qaida presented them with an opportunity to say that Islam is an enemy of the West."
Muslim leaders around the world have given the film rave reviews.
"The film will contribute to solving the problem of misunderstanding between the Islamic world and the West," gushed OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who has proposed with CAIR an international law criminalizing blasphemy of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Listed first among "major funders" backing the film: Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation.
Another backer is the Islamic Society of North America, which bin Talal also finances. The uncle of Rauf's wife, Daisy Khan, serves on ISNA's board. The U.S. government recently named ISNA an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history.
An ISNA affiliate – the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences – changed its name after federal agents raided its offices after 9/11 on suspicion of supporting terrorism. Northern Virginia-based GSISS is now known as Cordoba University.