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Al Jazeera to launch rightwing media platform targeting US conservatives

The Guardian logo The Guardian 2/23/2021 Adam Gabbatt
a large tall tower with a clock at the top of a building: Photograph: Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters

Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network that has previously sought to become a liberal media force in the US, is launching a platform to target conservatives, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The new effort, called Rightly, will target Republicans who “feel left out of conservative media”, Politico reported, and will be led by a former Fox News journalist.

Al Jazeera became a significant presence in the US in 2013, when it launched the left-leaning Al Jazeera America news channel and website. The network, which is based in Doha and funded by the state of Qatar, closed down the US-facing TV channel in 2016, but has remained a significant presence online with its AJPlus video network. Its international channel – Al Jazeera English – is popular in the US.

a clock on the side of a building: The Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar. © Photograph: Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters The Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

The launch of a conservative effort comes at a time of increasing extremism in existing rightwing US news sources.

Fox News, the go-to news channel for the American right, has lurched even further right as it faces threats from new, ultra-conservative TV channels NewsMax and One America News.

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Politico reported that Scott Norvell, a former Fox News staffer, will be editor-in-chief of Rightly, which will launch its first conservative-focused show on Thursday.

Norvell left News Corp, which owns Fox News, in 2012, according to his LinkedIn page, ending 16 years at the company in various roles.

A former staff member at Heat Street, a news website launched by News Corp in April 2016 and shut down in August 2017, said Norvell was involved in that site’s politics swinging to the right.

“Scott Norvell played a part in transitioning Heat Street from libertarian youth-oriented site as originally envisaged to pro-Trump alt-right Breitbart clone,” the former staff member said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Norvell did not respond to a request for comment.

Privately, some Al Jazeera staff expressed dismay at the launch of Rightly, wondering how it squared with the network’s previously stated commitments to giving voice to marginalised communities.

The Al Jazeera show will be called Right Now with Stephen Kent, according to Politico, and will be hosted by Stephen Kent, a commentator who currently presents Beltway Banthas, a podcast about “Star Wars, Politics & More”.

Kent also has a book deal with Center Street, a conservative book company which has published works by far-right authors including Donald Trump Jr and Corey Lewandowski.

Al Jazeera and Kent did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kent retweeted news of the platform on Tuesday morning.


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