Ad citing Al Jazeera payments to Ossoff uses selective information

Jon Ossoff is a Democratic candidate to replace Republican Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, a seat no Democrat has held since 1979.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, posted a web video that ties Ossoff to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news organization.

The focus of this fact-check is the ad’s statement that Al Jazeera, “a mouthpiece for terrorists, has been paying Jon Ossoff thousands of dollars.”

The ad cites an article from the American Journalism Review, "The Al Jazeera Effect," about the news organization's strategy of getting on-the-ground camera footage and reporting in the early days of the Arab Spring protests. The article relays a variety of opinions that have been offered about Al Jazeera.

The ad chose this passage from that article: “For years, critics have assailed what they see as anti-Semitic, anti-American bias in the channel’s news content. In the wake of 9/11, Al Jazeera broadcast statements by Osama bin Laden and reported from within the ranks of the Taliban, earning a reputation as a mouthpiece for terrorists.”

But the article also quotes David Marash, a former Nightline correspondent who joined and then left Al Jazeera over concerns about anti-American bias. The article said Marash described Al Jazeera “as ‘the best news channel on earth … Al Jazeera has become the model all around the world. Video reporting from the field sets them apart and makes them the best.’ “

Congressional Leadership Fund spokeswoman Courtney Alexander pointed to reports that the network is backed by the Qatari government, and Qatar has been linked to financing terrorist groups.

On the other hand, in 2011, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, "I'm very proud of the role that Al Jazeera has played" during the Arab Spring popular uprisings. "I congratulate you and I mourn for those who have sacrificed in the service of providing the information, which is knowledge, which is power."

The point is, some people have a bad opinion of Al Jazeera and others think it’s done good work. The ad cherry-picked images and a quote that cast Al Jazeera in the most dubious light possible. That characterization was the basis for the rest of the ad.

The video said Al Jazeera has been paying Ossoff thousands of dollars. Its source is an article from the conservative website the Washington Free Beacon, based on Ossoff's congressional financial disclosure form for 2016 and nearly three months in 2017. The Washington Free Beacon asked Ossoff to go beyond the federal requirements and say how much he received from Al Jazeera. He didn't respond.

Technically, the Al Jazeera payments went to the firm, not Ossoff as the video said. He was CEO and shared in the proceeds, but assigning a specific dollar amount to that would be difficult under any circumstances.

According to the Insight TWI website, the company produced 10 film projects since Ossoff took the helm, nine for Al Jazeera. During the time period covered by Ossoff's financial disclosure, 2016 and 2017, there is only one film project reported for Al Jazeera. The other was for the BBC.

Alexander of the Congressional Leadership Fund noted that Ossoff mentions the BBC but not Al Jazeera on his website.

Our ruling

The Congressional Leadership Fund video says Al Jazeera, “a mouthpiece for terrorists, has been paying Jon Ossoff thousands of dollars and asks “what is he hiding?”

Some Americans have called Al Jazeera a mouthpiece of terrorists. Others, including a U.S. senator, have praised it as a beacon of reporting in the Middle East and Africa.

Al Jazeera did pay Ossoff’s company.

The ad suggests Ossoff is hiding something. Given the evidence at hand, it appears he is unwilling to open the books of his business beyond what the law requires.

The ad's description of Al Jazeera strikes us as particularly selective and central to the suspicions the ad raises. We rate this claim Mostly False.

“Al Jazeera, a media outlet that has been described as a mouthpiece for terrorists, has been paying Jon Ossoff thousands of dollars. But Jon refuses to tell voters exactly how much money he’s received. Just like Jon refuses to tell voters the truth about his experience.”

— web ad by the Congressional Leadership Fund