By Lucas Shaw
NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) – The presidential administration of George W. Bush was never an advocate of Al-Jazeera. If anything, it viewed the network as a propaganda arm of radical Islamists.
But at least one of Bush’s chief foreign policy advisors has changed his tune.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld granted an interview to Al-Jazeera English on Thursday, which will air Friday, and complimented the network for its service.
“It can be an important means of communication in the world and I am delighted you are doing what you are doing,” Rumsfeld told Sir David Frost on “Sir David Frost”
This statement stands in stark contrast to the tone Rumsfeld struck back in 2004 when he accused the network of lying and deemed its actions “vicious.”
At the time, Rumsfeld was referring to the original Al Jazeera, which became well known in the United States for airing messages from Osama Bin Laden.
That led some to dispute whether it was a puppet of the Islamist movement or a network that offered more balanced coverage of the Arab world.
There were even reports that Bush said he wanted to bomb the channel’s headquarters, though his actual comments and intent were never made public.
Since then, Al Jazeera has launched Al-Jazeera English and become a symbol of another movement — the Arab Spring.
This has softened the attitude of many Americans toward the network, as evidenced by its gradual penetration of U.S. markets, now including New York.