One of Fox News' affiliates, WNYW, sent out a reporter named Charles Leaf to conduct an "investigation" of the "money trail" in the patented Fox Ambush Squad style, and yesterday the results ran a couple of times on Fox itself: First Megyn Kelly carried it on her morning "news" show, then Laura Ingraham featured it on The O'Reilly Factor, including an interview with Leaf, who tried to pretend that what he was doing was real journalism.
What's peculiar about this report is that it zeroes in on a few minor functionaries in the financial chain behind the construction of the mosque -- loan guarantors and the like. Leaf invades their homes, follows them into foyers, and tries to run after them in parking lots. All this, ostensibly, to follow the "money trail" behind the mosque.
Of course, they somehow neglected to try talking to one of the imam's more generous backers -- Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. Maybe that's because Talal is the No. 2 shareholder in Fox News.
Indeed, as none other than Rupert Murdoch's New York Post reported last May, the Kingdom Foundation, al-Waleed's personal charity, has donated a total of $305,000 to Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow, a leadership and networking project sponsored jointly by two of Rauf's organizations, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative. Al-Waleed owns a 7 percent, $2.3 billion stake in News Corporation. Likewise, News Corporation owns a 9 percent, $70 million stake — purchased in February — in Rotana, Al-Waleed's Saudi media conglomerate. Put another way: Rupert Murdoch and Fox News are in business, to the tune of billions of dollars, with one of the "Terror Mosque Imam's" principal patrons.
It's bad enough that they sicced their camera crews on a bunch of unsuspecting bankers, accountants and real-estate developers who are, unsurprisingly, not willing to have their lives destroyed by a scandal-mongering bunch of fake journalists on a witch hunt. But the pernicious part of this kind of reportage is the way that it implies guilt -- for some unnamed misdeed -- simply in the refusal to go on-camera.
We have long said that this style of pseudo-journalism is a violation of a whole raft of basic ethic standards for real journalists. The Fox crews disgracefully badger people outside their homes, and choose targets not merely for some official misdeed but, in some cases, merely for writing or saying something the reporter didn't like.
And this kind of reportage is even more clearly unethical, because it victimizes a bunch of ordinary citizens whose only misdeed is being associated in business dealings with an unpopular project. That's deeply disturbing.
Just remember: Whenever a Fox crew gets near you, simply repeat the magical words, "Andrea Mackris". They'll go away, as do all plagues eventually.