Rewind: Remember When PBS Praised Qadhafi As An Islamic Hero?

Now that the American consensus holds that Moammar Qadhafi was a vile dictator who few will mourn, it might be time to recall that taxpayer-funded PBS actually aired a documentary series by an Islamic professor that honored Qadhafi as "brilliant." Brent Bozell, then chairing the National Conservative Foundation, led the charge against a series called The Africans that aired in the fall of 1986.

Check out what we ranked as Reason #2 in our Special Report Counting the Reasons to Defund: The 20 Most Memorable Leftist Excesses of Public Broadcasting:

In October 1986, PBS began airing a nine-part series called The Africans, co-produced by the BBC and Washington PBS station WETA. Lynne Cheney, then the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, got the NEH logo removed from the series in protest of how the producer and narrator, Ali Mazrui, “extols the virtues of Moammar Qaddafi.”

In the show, Mazrui boasted: “Two supreme ideals seem to have inspired Qaddafi’s adventures: to turn Africans and Arabs into masters of their own destiny, and to transform them into major actors on the world stage.  Qaddafi is another example of how it is not enough just to stop being pawns in the games of the powerful. We must become global players in our own right.” Asked by reporters if Qaddafi is a terrorist, Mazrui replied, “The man is brilliant, but inclined to be unpredictable in his loyalties.”

Suzanne Weil, then the senior vice president for programming at PBS, told The Washington Post: “I find him absolutely riveting. He is Islamic, and that’s the view he has. He has not a lot of wonderful things to say about the West, but we have wonderful respect for our audiences, and we expect they can see other points of view and compare.” But there were no other points of view in the series.

Asked about the one-sided presentation, then-WETA president Ward Chamberlain Jr. conceded: “The Western world doesn’t come out very well in the series,” but “the Western world shouldn’t come out too well regarding its role in Africa.”

In an article in The New Republic, Charles Krauthammer found the show looked “through a prism of vulgar Marxism, anachronistic economics, and anti-Western resentment.” Mazrui even announced in the series that Karl Marx “was the last of the great Jewish prophets.”

NCF's newsletter Newswatch also reported Mazrui commended Qadhafi for "restoring the credentials of Islam as a global force" by using oil revenues "for the greater glory of Africa as well as Islam." Mazrui excused Qadhafi's support for terrorism: He "supported armed resistance against what he regarded as Western imperialism, but in so doing, he brought upon himself the revenge of the West."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis