DUBAI: Qatari media have been accused of “demonizing” Donald Trump, with the Al Jazeera network alone having broadcast more than 1,800 news items designed to discredit the US president, according to commentators and media monitoring research.
Al Jazeera — into which Qatar has pumped billions of dollars since it first went on air in 1996 — has allegedly aired insulting comments about Trump across its various broadcast and online channels and in multiple languages.
The comments range from questioning Trump’s legitimacy in office and his mental health to accusing him of racism and praising his rivals.
Other Qatar-backed channels have also been accused of bias against Trump and criticism of recent US efforts on the peace process, while Al Jazeera has been subject to wider allegations of stirring hatred. One cartoon published by a Qatari media outlet portrays Trump as a worm, while another shows him with his mouth stuffed full of money.
One recent Al Jazeera video broadcast appeared to promote Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney — and self-confessed “pitbull” — turned nemesis. Cohen, once one of Trump’s most loyal aides, pleaded guilty to charges of campaign finance violations, and directly implicated Trump in paying “hush money” to prevent two women speaking out about alleged extramarital affairs.
One Al Jazeera broadcast played on Cohen’s importance in the “world trend list,” in a report that also referenced activists’ demonstrations at a Trump hotel.
While Al Jazeera’s Arabic network has long been accused of stirring anti-American sentiment, its other networks have generally had a reputation for being more balanced.
Yet media-monitoring research into these platforms’ archives reveals numerous anti-Trump attacks by outlets such as Al Jazeera English and online video service AJ+. The latter, for example, last year featured a video highlighting what it suggested might be “the nine most racist moments of the Trump presidency.”
One Al Jazeera English broadcast from December 2017 questioned the president’s mental health after he slurred the pronunciation of a word in a speech.
“Many are questioning Trump’s ability to make sound decisions,” the Al Jazeera presenter said. The broadcast also drew a parallel between the episode and the case of former President Ronald Reagan, who showed bouts of confusion while in office and was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Salman Al-Ansari, the founder and president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), said that one of Al Jazeera’s aims was to “demonize” the US leadership.
“One of the cornerstones of the Al Jazeera network’s policy is to spread hatred against America in the Arab world,” he said. “Al Jazeera wants to keep the same policy of demonizing the US over and over, because that goes side-by-side with the agendas of the Qatari government.”
Part of this agenda is to stir hatred of the US within the Arab world, something that is consistent with the tactics used by the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Ansari said.
“It’s actually a dangerous message because the Qataris are actually hosting the Al Udeid Air Base, which is the biggest US air base in the region … they are playing a very dirty game in demonizing the United States and … making the people of the Arab world hate the US.
“This is a very dangerous brainwashing tactic by the Qatari regime that needs to be stopped and needs to be confronted decisively by the international community, specifically by the United States.”
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said that the “antipathy” of Al Jazeera Arabic toward Trump stems from Qatar’s frustration with the US administration’s strong line against the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran.
“Since Mr. Trump correctly realized that the source of the problem in the region comes from Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar has been upset because it is a benefactor of the Muslim Brotherhood and is also an ally of Iran,” Al-Shehri said.
“I am not surprised by Al Jazeera’s insidious campaign against Mr. Trump. Ever since Mr. Trump pulled the plug on the Iran nuclear deal, the anti-Trump campaign has become shriller on Al Jazeera.”