Old Frick has it easy today, as the story about White House officials meeting with members of the Muslim Brotherhood has two agencies, AFP and Foxnews, reporting on it. You’ll notice several differences between the two.
The AFP starts with a sugarcoating of the controversial aspect of this meeting, implying the Muslim Brotherhood is just another Muslim political player entering the presidential sweepstakes:
White House officials held talks with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Washington this week, as the Islamist group threw itself into the fray in Egypt’s presidential election.
Foxnews puts a little more meat on the bones, pointing out with the phrase “latest sign” that the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t magically appear deus ex machina to save Egypt. Adding “returning to prominence” and “after years in political exile” tie the elevation and legitimizing of the group to the White House visit, which is the major point of the story:
White House officials met this week with envoys from the Muslim Brotherhood, in the latest sign that the Islamist group is returning to prominence in post-Mubarak Egypt after years in political exile.
Subtle? Yes. But in this short a story, simple turns of phrase change the reader’s entire impression. It’s important to know that the Muslim Brotherhood has been ‘throwing’ itself into Egyptian politics since 1928 and has taken a shot at the top job before, successfully in 1948.
Next, the AFP throws up the bipartisan fig leaf as soon as possible, noting that Senator Lindsay Graham and John McCain also met with the group:
The White House pointed out that Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, and other US lawmakers and officials had also met with Brotherhood representatives in Egypt and elsewhere in recent months.
Important to the context of the story? Sure. But more appropriate where Fox puts it, near the end to round out the picture, not as the centerpiece. (As an aside, Old Frick would like to point out that these are the same two Senators who visited with and hailed their encounter with the ex-Libyan leader and ex-living Mohammar Qaddafi as “interesting”. They hoped the “relationship between our two countries deepen in all facets”, discussed with Qaddafi the possibility of selling the dictator US military equipment, then called for the US to overthrow Qaddafi… all in the span of two years. I guess this is what happens when you give “conservatives” time to think.)
The next headscratcher is the choice of quotes to show the administration’s position. The AFP utilizes a National Security Council spokesman quote, which bizarrely implies that a known agitator for Sharia Law is for… religious and women’s rights?
“We believe that it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties that are committed to democratic principles, especially nonviolence,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
“In all our conversations with these groups, we emphasize the importance of respect for minority rights, the full inclusion of women, and our regional security concerns.”
Fox’s pull quote from Carney, if frustrating from a policy standpoint, at least contextualizes the decision better:
“We have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors,” Carney said Thursday. “Because of the fact that Egypt’s political landscape has changed, the actors have become more diverse and our engagement reflects that. The point is that we will judge Egypt’s political actors by how they act — not by their religious affiliation.”
AFP and Foxnews both drop the ball in their description of the Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Khairat El-Shater. The AFP describes him as “a professor of engineering and business tycoon” while Fox runs with “prominent businessman.” Khairat El-Shater has been involved with the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1980s, was leader of their Greater Cairo branch, and most recently has been described as their “chief strategist and financier.” Kind of relevant, no?
Briefly touching the meeting’s larger context, Foxnews ends with:
The United States, though, has not condemned the move. Administration officials have told The New York Times they were actually optimistic about the nomination — as he could pose a challenge to another hard-line Islamist candidate now leading the race.
So now the White House isn’t just picking winners and losers in the US economy. It’s also picking winners and losers of internecine Islamist presidential politics in other countries. Given the White House’s poor success rate, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “chief strategist and financier” ought to denounce this endorsement immediately.