O'Donnell falsely suggested Schumer advocates "legislation to stop Arab ownership" of U.S. shipping terminalsMarch 10, 2006 3:35 PM EST ››› JOE BROWN
On the March 10 broadcast of NBC's Today, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell -- in an apparent reference to a bill offered by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) that would block the acquisition of control over six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- falsely said that the bill would "stop Arab ownership" of U.S. port facilities. In fact, Schumer has proposed legislation that would prevent any company owned or controlled by a "foreign government that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan" from controlling U.S. port facilities. The legislation does not target "Arab ownership" of U.S. shipping terminals, as O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell mentioned the legislation in the context of reporting a decision announced March 9 by DPW, a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that it would divest itself of its leases to terminals at six U.S. ports. NBC aired video footage from a press conference at which Schumer and several other Senate Democrats pressed for a vote on Schumer's legislation. As the footage aired, O'Donnell stated that "[s]ome lawmakers say new legislation to stop Arab ownership may still be needed." O'Donnell's statement was followed by a video clip of Schumer speaking at the press conference, then by a video clip of Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, who stated that he was "very dismayed by the emotional responses that some people have put on the table here in the United States that really comes down to Arab- and Muslim-bashing."
From the March 10 broadcast of NBC's Today:
O'DONNELL: The way out came in a three-sentence statement from the Arab-owned company and read on the Senate floor saying that to preserve its strong relationship with the U.S. it will find an American company to take over management of six U.S. ports. Some lawmakers say new legislation to stop Arab ownership may still be needed.
SCHUMER [video clip]: We need to make sure that all U.S. operations are totally removed from the United Arab Emirates and Dubai Ports World control.
O'DONNELL: Visiting Capitol Hill, the top military commander in Iraq defended the UAE as a vital partner.
ABIZAID [video clip]: I'm very dismayed by the emotional responses that some people have put on the table here in the United States that really comes [sic] down to Arab- and Muslim-bashing that was totally unnecessary.
But contrary to O'Donnell's report, Schumer's legislation does not specifically target "Arab ownership" of U.S. port facilities. The legislation states:
In the interest of national security, effective immediately, notwithstanding any other provision of law and any prior action or decision by or on behalf of the President, no company, wholly owned or controlled by any foreign government that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule between 1996-2001, may own, lease, operate, or manage real property or facilities at a United States port.
As United Press International noted on October 20, 2003: "Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with the United Arab Emirates, were the only countries that recognized and aided Afghanistan's Taliban regime." Privately owned companies from these three countries would not be affected by Schumer's legislation, nor would companies run by governments from nations -- Arab or otherwise -- that did not recognize the Taliban.