U.S. Hires Christian Extremists to Produce Arabic News


By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, AlterNet

May 2, 2003



http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=15801



The U.S. government this week launched its Arabic

language satellite TV news station for mostly Muslim

Iraq. It is being produced in a studio  Grace Digital

Media  controlled by fundamentalist Christians who

are rabidly pro-Israel. That's grace as in "by the

grace of God."



Grace Digital Media is controlled by a fundamentalist

Christian millionaire, Cheryl Reagan, who last year

wrested control of Federal News Service, a

transcription news service, from its former owner,

Cortes Randell. Randell says he met Reagan at a prayer

meeting, brought her in as an investor in Federal News

Service, and then she forced him out of his own

company.



Grace Digital Media and Federal News Service are

housed in a downtown Washington, D.C. office building,

along with Grace News Network. When you call the

number for Grace News Network, you get a person

answering "Grace Digital Media/Federal News Service."

According to its web site, Grace News Network is

"dedicated to transmitting the evidence of God's

presence in the world today."



"Grace News Network will be reporting the current

secular news, along with aggressive proclamations that

will 'change the news' to reflect the Kingdom of God

and its purposes," GNN proclaims.



The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S.

government agency producing the television news

broadcasts for Iraq, likes to say it is the BBC of the

USA. BBG runs Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and

Radio Sawa  Arabic language radio for the Middle

East.



"Our mission is clear," BBG's Joan Mower told us. "To

broadcast accurate and objective news about the United

States and the world. We don't do propaganda,

leafleting  we are like the BBC in that respect."



Well, then why hook up with Grace?



BBG's Joan Mower said that Grace Digital Media is a

mainstream production house used by all kinds of

mainstream news organizations.



"Grace will have nothing to do with the editorial side

of the news broadcast," she said. "They are renting us

equipment, space, studio. The Grace personnel we use

include technicians, production people but no

editorial people."



But Mower said she couldn't get us a copy of the

contract between BBG and Grace Digital Media. Nor

could she say how Grace Digital was chosen as the

production studio.



Grace News Network proclaims that it will be a "unique

tool in the Lord's ministry plan for the world,"

according to the company's mission statement. "Grace

News Network provides networking links and portals to

various ministries and news services that will be of

benefit to every Christian believer and seeker of

truth."



The CEO of Grace News Network is Thorne Auchter. The

same Thorne Auchter who began the dismantling of the

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

under Presidents Reagan and George Bush I. Auchter did

not return our calls seeking comment for this story.



While it's unclear whether Grace News Network actually

produces any news, it has produced a documentary movie

titled "Israel: Divine Destiny" which it showed at the

National Press Club in September 2002. The film is

about "Israel's destiny and the United States' role in

that destiny," according to Grace News Network.



Grace News said that it could not make a copy of the

film available to us at this time, since it is now

undergoing post-production editing. Nor could it

provide a transcript.



The mainstream media has documented strong and growing

ties between right-wing Republican Christian

fundamentalists and right-wing Sharonist Israeli

expansionists. This alliance is personified in Ralph

Reed's Stand Up for Israel, a group formed to

"mobilize Christians and other people of faith to

support the State of Israel."



President Bush has very strong ties to fundamentalist

Christians, most notably Franklin Graham, the son of

Rev. Billy Graham. Last week, Franklin Graham

delivered a Good Friday message at the Pentagon,

despite an uproar over his previous slander of Islam

as "a very evil and wicked religion."



Don Wagner, a professor of religion and director of

the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park

University, an evangelical Christian college in

Chicago, has written extensively about what he calls

Christian Zionism, whose leaders he identifies as,

among others, Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, Pat

Robertson, Gary Bauer, and Franklin Graham.



"Christian Zionists have historically pointed to

Genesis 12:3-96  I will bless those who bless you.

And the one who curses you, I will curse," Dr. Wagner

said. "They have interpreted this to mean that

individuals and nations who support the state of

Israel will be blessed by God. It has come to mean

political, economic and moral support, often

uncritically rendered to the state of Israel."



Grace News Network seems to fit the mold.



Joan Mower says that BBG is currently producing and

transmitting six hours of news into Iraq including a

dubbed version of the daily evening news from ABC,

CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS, plus three hours of original

news programming from BBG.



BBG says it sees no problem in having Grace produce

the evening news broadcast for Iraq. Given the brewing

anti-American revolt through all sectors of Iraqi

society, maybe it should reconsider.



We called Grace Digital Media to speak with Cheryl

Reagan. Her secretary told us that she has been away

in extended vacation for more than a month  in

Israel.



When will she back? we asked. No one knows, the

secretary said.



Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington,

D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman

is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational

Monitor. They are co-authors of "Corporate Predators:

The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy"

(Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).





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