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U.S. Hires Christian Extremists to Produce Arabic News

Why and how did the Feds choose Grace Digital Media as the production house for a TV channel for Muslim Iraq? Nobody's telling.
 
 
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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).