Top Journalism School Teams Up With Qatar

Northwestern received millions from terror-linked foundation

University Hall at Northwestern
University Hall at Northwestern / Wikimedia Commons
July 28, 2020

Northwestern University's journalism program accepted hundreds of millions in funding from Qatar and a regime-backed foundation linked to terrorism.

The Department of Education is investigating whether Northwestern properly disclosed donations from the Qatari government. Since 2012, the school has accepted approximately $340 million in donations funneled through the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit group with links to terrorism. The university's elite Medill School of Journalism in 2008 partnered with the Qatari government-owned media company Al Jazeera, an outlet accused of promoting and aiding al Qaeda, the Iranian regime, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as advancing anti-Semitism.

The Clarion Project, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the threat of extremist groups in America, details how Qatar's government spends millions on lobbyists, think tanks, and American universities to influence U.S. public opinion in favor of its views. Alex VanNess, a Clarion Project research analyst, said that foreign influence on college campuses—in the United States and abroad—is dangerous, particularly from countries that are hostile to the United States.

"[Qatar's] foreign influence operation is shaping public opinion to erode American ideas," VanNess told the Washington Free Beacon. He added that foreign influence "is muddying the waters on issues relating to national security and relating to our relationships with our allies and it's being done so by governments and entities that don't have things like freedom of speech and are generally antagonistic to America and the American government."

Qatar's government money has already won the support of a prominent Northwestern professor. Justin Martin, an associate professor who received $1.4 million from the Qatari government for a study on "Media Use in the Middle East," downplayed the 9/11 attacks and cheered for BDS on his public Twitter profile.

"Happy 9/11," Martin tweeted in 2019. "More than 8,441 civilians died in Yemen this year helped by US arms dealt to Saudi Arabia and UAE. The US is complicit in far more terror than it has ever suffered."

In a separate post, Martin hailed the use of Qatari money to promote the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Responding to a Jerusalem Post headline asking if Qatar funding was influencing BDS on U.S. college campuses, Martin said, "hopefully yes. Three cheers for #BDS." Martin did not respond to requests for comment.

Northwestern denounced the BDS movement in a public statement in May 2019, but VanNess said this denunciation was hypocritical. VanNess said if the university wanted to live up to its rhetoric, it must divest from Qatar and Al Jazeera, which have both supported the BDS movement.

"It's not possible for the school to condemn anti-Semitism and work with Al Jazeera. You're speaking out of both sides of your mouth when you do that," VanNess told the Free Beacon. "[Universities] will condemn anti-Semitism in America, but they'll keep their mouths shut when it comes to Al Jazeera and its anti-Semitic commentary."

The Qatar Foundation worked hand in hand with Northwestern to create Northwestern University in Qatar, a branch of the elite journalism school in Doha. In a "Memorandum of Understanding" with Al Jazeera, the university agreed to conduct joint research and education programs.

The satellite campus is located near a Qatar Foundation-operated mosque that has become a stage for radical ideologies. In 2017, a preacher at the mosque described the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris as "the sequel to the comedy film of 9/11."

Neither Qatar nor Northwestern University responded to requests for comment.

Foreign influence is growing on college campuses. According to a Free Beacon review of federal records, more than 100 U.S. universities host Confucius Institutes, a program backed by the Chinese government to indoctrinate American college students. The Department of Education requires universities to disclose foreign gifts of more than $250,000 but universities seldom abide by the rule.

The Clarion Project estimates that between 2013 and 2017, there were discrepancies of approximately $997 million between what universities disclosed and what was donated by foreign entities. Most of the money came from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Records indicate the Qatari government also made large donations to Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth University, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and Georgetown.

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment about the ongoing investigation into these universities. The agency is ramping up disclosure requirements. Beginning on July 31, it will mandate that universities report all foreign money in a new online portal.