New York Assemblyman to Al Jazeera: Drop Dead

Elected official calls for boycott of Qatar-funded news network

Kieran Michael Lalor / AP

A New York state assemblyman has launched a petition calling on major cable companies to drop the newly launched news station Al Jazeera America and encouraged consumers to cancel their cable subscriptions if companies do not drop the network by the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Republican Assemblyman and Iraq war veteran Kieran Michael Lalor wrote to the heads of major U.S. cable companies on Monday to demand that they drop Al Jazeera America, which began broadcasting last week.

Al Jazeera America is the controversial sister station of Al Jazeera, a Qatari government-funded network that has faced criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups.

Lalor, a Marine Corps veteran, is encouraging New Yorkers to boycott cable providers Comcast and Verizon if they do not drop Al Jazeera America by Sept. 11, the 12-year anniversary of the terror attacks that brought the Twin Towers down. He said the network is an "anti-American, anti-Semitic, misogynistic propaganda" channel.

Lalor said he decided to petition the cable providers after several of his constituents called to express outrage over Al Jazeera America’s broadcast debut.

"I’m clicking around on the weekend," flipping between Fox News, CSPAN, MSNBC, and Al Jazeera America, Lalor recalled in an interview. After passing by Al Jazeera, "I went back and said, ‘Holy cow! What is that?’"

"We lived through 9/11 and I served overseas after," Lalor told the Washington Free Beacon. "I just don’t see why the cable should include something so offensive."

The station "just kind of snuck in there," he said. "This is not a for-profit endeavor by Qatar … but a propaganda outlet."

Al Jazeera qualifies as foreign propaganda because the Qatari government directly funds it, Lalor argued.

"They have an agenda. It is not an American agenda. They are anti-American, anti-Semitic, and Qatar is misogynistic," Lalor said.

The assemblyman’s letter is addressed to Verizon chairman Lowell McAdam and Comcast chairman Brian Roberts.

Because Al Jazeera America is included in basic cable packages, New Yorkers "are being forced against their will to pay for a network that is owned by a foreign power with a long history of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny," Lalor writes.

"Moreover, my constituents are rightfully infuriated that basic cable packages include Al Jazeera, a network that reflects the hatreds of its state-sponsor," the letter states.

"I too object to being forced to purchase Al Jazeera when paying for basic cable," Lalor wrote, asking that the station be provided only to those who request it and are willing to pay for it.

"Should you refuse to remedy this problem by Sept. 11, 2013, we will begin encouraging subscribers to drop your services and also work with municipalities to revoke the monopoly you currently enjoy," Lalor wrote.

Verizon spokesman Bill Kula defended the addition of Al Jazeera.

"We offer a current total of over 575 channels of content on FiOS TV, including over 100 news and information channels, many from around the world," Kula said. "Our content options are based on demand, and we continuously evaluate the line up to make sure we’re delivering optimal customer value and satisfaction."

A Comcast spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Al Jazeera America spokeswoman Catherine Castro said that the network has "no comment at this time" on the boycott.

The United States and Qatar have historically enjoyed close military ties.

However, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have begun to express frustration with the oil-rich nation over its funding of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.

Some U.S. cable providers have rebuffed Al Jazeera America. The station is currently enmeshed in a lawsuit with AT&T over the company’s refusal to carry the network.

Al Jazeera America alleges that AT&T wrongfully terminated its contract, while the cable provider maintains that the network engaged in "certain breaches" of the agreement, according to Reuters.