WASHINGTON — A Bahraini newspaper is refusing to retract fabricated anti-American quotes attributed to former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Hugh Shelton after pressure from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Embassy in Bahrain to run a correction.
Akhbar al-Khaleej and its English-language sister paper Gulf Daily News, papers seen as close to the Bahraini monarchy, ran stories at the end of August that included quotes attributed to General Shelton from a Fox News appearance in which he allegedly said “America thought Bahrain was an easy prey that will serve as key to the collapse of the GCC regime and lead to giant oil companies controlling oil in the Gulf” and “admitted that US tried to weaken the Middle East, but that only led to the emergence of new blocs, such as the GCC and the Egypt-Saudi Arabia-UAE triangle.”
However the Fox News appearance never occurred, and Shelton flatly denies saying anything attributed to him in the articles.
“I am dismayed at reports that attribute to me false allegations regarding US government attempts to destabilize the governments of Bahrain and Egypt,” Shelton, who left the military in 2001, said in a statement. “I did not make these statements, and they do not reflect my views. Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, the interview never happened.”
“Recent claims in local and regional media regarding comments made by General Hugh Shelton are completely fabricated,” said Commander Jason Salata, the public affairs officer at the Navy’s 5th Fleet base in Bahrain. “The U.S. Navy has confirmed with General Shelton that he never did and never would make such a clearly false statement regarding Bahrain. In fact, General Shelton has never been on Fox News speaking about Bahrain, nor has he ever worked at the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters here in Bahrain as these stories claim.”
Salata told BuzzFeed that he believed the false quotes originated with Anwar Abdulrahman, the editor-in-chief of both papers. Attempts to reach Abdulrahman were unsuccessful.
Abdulrahman used the quotes in an op-ed he wrote on August 28 questioning America’s relationship with Bahrain.
“For a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman of that nation’s armed forces to clearly disclose that America planned to swallow Bahrain and gradually the rest of the GCC, is alarming to put it mildly!” Abdulrahman wrote. “Our question is WHY?”
The Gulf Daily News wrote on Monday that it stands by its story and will not post a correction.
“The Gulf Daily News and its sister newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej last night stood by a story they published claiming US involvement in a ‘conspiracy’ to destablise Bahrain and Egypt,” began an unbylined story titled “We stand by US plot report.”
“Last night, Akhbar Al Khaleej Editor-in-chief Anwar Abdulrahman confirmed that the general’s Fox News interview, far from being invented, had been carried by American websites including the World Tribune on October 3,” it continued.
The World Tribune article in question appears to be based solely off of the Gulf Daily News report. According to Salata, the false report has spread to some Egyptian media as well.