U.S. Media Refuses to Inform the Public When Its Commentators and Pundits are Paid Foreign Agents, by Michael Krieger

The Russians may be trying to influence US politics sub rosa, but what about the legions of media figures in the employ of foreign governments and interests who try to influence US politics right out in the open, without disclosing their foreign ties? From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Unbelievably – Rothkopf has the audacity to criticize Trump for having “repeatedly shown great fondness for foreign leaders—even despots and known murderers, human rights abusers and criminals”, while Rothkopf himself is literally a paid agent working to disseminating propaganda for one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, one that does much of the Saudis’ dirty work for it in Washington. And the fact that the Daily Beast makes no disclosure of any of this is what makes this practice – having paid lobbyists and consultants for foreign regimes and corporations masquerade as objective and neutral analysts of the news – such a massive journalistic scandal and fraud.

– From today’s Intercept article: MSNBC and Daily Beast Feature UAE Lobbyist David Rothkopf With No Disclosure: a Scandalous Media-Wide Practice

Much of the American public despises mainstream corporate media, but rather than engage in some self-reflection and admit failure they just complain about Trump. It’s critical we recognize that mass media in the U.S. is very much part of the very same discredited establishment it’s supposed to report on, thus its response to justified criticism is likewise establishment-esque. Blame the readers, blame Trump, blame anyone but themselves.

This is why mass media’s gotten even worse since Trump was elected — not an easy feat. It’s been obsessed with a Russia-Trump collusion tale that appears to be going nowhere, while simultaneously cheering on Trump’s worst instincts such as when he bombs Syria. Moreover, one thing the U.S. media definitely seems to have no interest in doing is disclosing when its commentators and pundits are paid shills for foreign governments, defense contractors and other unmentionable interests.

Just last week, Glenn Greenwald highlighted how The Washington Post allowed Saudi lobbyists to regularly write opinion pieces, which subsequently led the paper to force these writers to break off financial relationships with the Saudis. Today, he’s back with an equally important piece about how mass media regularly invites foreign agents to discuss foreign affairs without disclosing that these individuals are in fact foreign agents.

It’s hard to put into words how despicable, unethical and pervasive this mass media practice is, but Glenn puts forth a valiant effort. He names several names, but the post focuses on a paid foreign agent for the UAE named David Rothkopf and the media outlets that enable him. The piece begins as follows:

On Thursday, the Daily Beast published an article about the Saudi/US relationship by David Rothkopf, a long-time member in good standing of the U.S. Foreign Policy elite. Until last year, he was the editor-in-chief of the establishment journal Foreign Policy, named to that position in 2012 when it was owned by the Washington Post. He’s also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting professor of international and public affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He was previously deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policy in the Clinton administration and managing director of Kissinger Associates, the advisory firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

But, unbeknownst to Daily Beast readers consuming his commentary about Saudi Arabia, Rothkopf is something else: a paid lobbyist for the Saudi’s close ally, the equally despotic regime of the United Arab Emirates. Last month, Rothkopf formally registered as a foreign agent for the Emiratis.

Of course, it’s not just the Daily Beast. The article notes how MSNBC, PBS and CNN have all recently given Rothkopf a platform without disclosing his lobbying. Moreover, it’s not like he’s getting chump change for his extracurricular activities on behalf of the UAE, the contract he signed pays $50,000 per month. I don’t care who you are, this sort of money’s going to influence anyone’s public opinion. For media outlets to hide such a relevant fact from consumers is nothing short of journalistic malpractice.

Greenwald also turns our attention to Dennis Ross, Fran Townsend and Al Mottur. We learn:

Dennis Ross, also a columnist at the Washington Post and a commentator on MSNBC, who has opined for both outlets on the Saudi regime without either news organization disclosing his financial interests in the Saudi regime. Also included in Legum’s reporting are Fran Townsend of the same firm as Ross, who works as a national security analyst for CBS News, and General Jack Keane, who has repeatedly commented on Saudi Arabia as a national security analyst for Fox News without any disclosure of his financial interest in Saudi Arabia.

Beyond those names, Fox News, along with Fox Business and CNBC, regularly feature Al Mottur as a “Democratic consultant” and contributor, which is how he markets himself. Occasionally, Fox hosts note that Mottur is a “lobbyist” along with a Democratic operative who worked for the Clinton campaign, but do not ever specify the clients for which he works.

Yet Mottur is a partner in the lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which serves as paid lobbyists for the Saudi regime, among many other undisclosed corporate and governmental clients. In fact, the 2016 contract that firm signed with the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to which the Saudi regime pays the firm $100,000, was signed by Mottur himself, and in 2018, Mottur registered as a foreign lobbyist for the Saudi regime.

There are only two ways to honestly assess what’s going on here. Either our mass media outlets are utterly incompetent, or they’re intentionally deceiving their readers/viewers. Either conclusion is immensely concerning, and provides justification for Americans’ utter contempt for corporate media.

Towards the end, Glenn makes a very astute observation about the whole grotesque practice. He rightly notes that Gulf monarchies and defense contractors often specifically target people who are adept at getting their views in front of mass media audiences. Thus, if these media properties disclosed the truth, their market value as foreign agents would plummet. It’s all just a disgusting racket, like so much else in this economy.

Often these consultants and lobbyists are able to secure lucrative contracts precisely because their media platforms signal to corporations and governments that they have the ability to disseminate messaging, masquerading as journalism, that will serve the interests of their concealed clients. They market themselves to potential clients by touting their media platforms.

Meanwhile, another really good article was published in the Washington Post yesterday providing additional details on the Saudi/UAE bribery scheme rampant in D.C.

I want to highlight one think tank and one individual in particular. The think tank is the Middle East Institute. We learn:

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Saudi money has been the Middle East Institute, which touts itself as “an unbiased source of information and analysis on this critical region.” The organization is chaired by Richard A. Clarke, who held senior national security positions during the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Between 2016 and 2017, the think tank received between $1.25 million and $4 million in funding from Saudi interests, according to its public disclosures.

In 2016, MEI received $20 million from UAE — which has backedthe Saudi government’s claims regarding Khashoggi’s death — to renovate its headquarters.

As far as the individual, everyone in America should never forget this name: Michael Petruzzello. Here’s a brief summary:

The institute also has other ties to the kingdom. Michael Petruzzello — who took on the kingdom as a client after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and whose communications firm Qorvis MSLGROUP reported $6.3 million in lobbying fees from the Saudis in 2016 and 2017 — was a member of the MEI board until earlier this year, according to a spokesman for the institute. And Jack Moore, director of the Washington office of the North American subsidiary of the Saudi government-owned oil company, is currently on the board.

It gets worse. There’s apparently nothing this guy won’t do for money, as he was one of the organizers of an apparent Saudi campaign to dupe U.S. veterans into opposing a bill that allowed 9/11 families to sue the Saudis for their well documented links to the attack.

The Saudi government, which has denied any ties to the 9/11 terrorists, kept lobbying against the law in early 2017, pushing amendments that supporters say would have gutted it. Military veterans were recruited by Saudi consultants to come to Washington to tell Congress the measure could open them up to potential litigation.

“The Saudis are very dirty in their fighting,” said Terry Strada, whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center and who is one of the lead plaintiffs in the litigation against the kingdom. “Veterans were showing up in Washington using language identical to Saudi talking points. Let’s face it, the only people they thought could go up against 9/11 families and be successful were veterans…”

“It’s an awesome trip and basically like a 5 star vacation :)” read one email invitation filed as part of the complaint.

David Casler, a retired Marine sergeant living in Sacramento, said he thought a nonprofit veterans group was paying to fly him to Washington and put him up in the Trump hotel. It wasn’t until after he arrived in Washington that he figured out the Saudis were paying the bill, he said.

“We realized we were pawns,” Casler said.

Petruzzello, who helped organize the veterans’ campaign, did not respond to a request for comment.

Disgusting.

 

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