Media

Top Republican Investigator Rep. Issa Indicates Openness To Probing Saudi Ownership Of Fox News (Updated)

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns the fourth largest stake in News Corp — the parent company of Fox News — making him the largest shareholder outside the family of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. According to the Financial Times, News Corp announced today that it is purchasing a $70 million dollar stake in Prince Alwaleed’s Rotana Media, a Middle Eastern music and news conglomerate. Boasting about the increased cooperation between the Murdoch empire and his own media corporation, Prince Alwaleed said, “This is a qualitative leap not just for Rotana but for the whole Arab world.” Because Prince Alwaleed has publicly acknowledged that he has forced Fox News to edit its coverage he disliked, conservative activists have attacked the business partnership as “really dangerous for America.”

At CPAC, ThinkProgress asked Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who serves as the top Republican investigator as the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, about the Saudi/Fox relationship. Issa said he was troubled in particular by foreign investors buying up American broadcasting companies. Asked specifically about Prince Alwaleed’s ownership of Fox News, Issa initially scoffed and assured us that he wasn’t worried because he “know[s] Rupert Murdoch.” But after being prodded about examples where Prince Alwaleed has indeed influenced Fox News coverage directly, Issa said he is open to holding an investigation of the network:

ISSA: Well I think foreign investment and foreign debt should be a concern to everyone. Those who buy trophy buildings or make contributions are probably less of a risk than those who ultimately own foreign national companies. And I would be most concerned with, I am most concerned about ownership of companies including broadcast companies by countries that may have another agenda.

TP: Well what do you think about Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, he’s one of the owners of Fox News. He owns the largest stake in News Corp. outside the Murdoch family.

ISSA: Well, I know Rupert Murdoch so I would certainly say he signs onto Rupert’s agenda, not the other way around.

TP: He’s said in the past that he’s dictated their content and kind of bragged about that. Is that a problem to you?

ISSA: Well, he obviously doesn’t when you watch Fox […]

TP: If evidence surfaces of bin Talal dictating their content more would you call for an investigation?

ISSA: Look, if you’ve got a single investigation I would suggest you turn it over to our people to look into. […] If you’ve got a specific bent, please turn it in for our committee on national security to work on, and I’d be happy to work on.

Watch it:

When Issa says Fox News’ coverage does not seem to reflect Prince Alwaleed’s agenda, he isn’t taking into account the Saudi billionaire’s full range of interests. For instance, Prince Alwaleed owns a $4.3 billion dollar stake in Citigroup, and has announced that he opposes President Obama’s financial reforms like the banker speculation tax. On Fox News, the bank tax and other financial reforms have been smeared with misinformation and outright lies.

In an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto last month, Prince Alwaleed emphasized the importance of the “strategic alliance” of America’s reliance on Saudi oil. Other Saudi officials have called efforts to build a clean energy economy in America Saudi Arabia’s “biggest threat.” Although little is known about the extent to which Prince Alwaleed weighs in on Fox content, Fox News dedicates much of its coverage to attacking clean energy legislation that would lead to American energy independence. If clean energy legislation dies, America will continue to be a foreign oil-dependent nation, which would benefit Prince Alwaleed and other members of the Saudi royal family.

UPDATE

Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Issa, told World Net Daily that his boss is “not investigating anything, he’s not calling for an investigation nor considering an investigation at all,” Bardella insisted that ThinkProgress “mischaracterized what the congressman’s intent was on this issue. This is not something he is considering pursuing in any way shape or form.”

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