Some MSNBC viewers want to throw away the Keyes.
Arab Americans and other critics of Israeli policies who are fed up with the staunchly pro-Israel stance of Alan Keyes have started an on-line petition drive to get the talk-show host and former presidential candidate (or his views) off NBC’s news channel.
MSNBC learned about the campaign from Keyes supporters, not his detractors.
"It hasn’t been presented to us," said Cheryl Daly, MSNBC vice president of media relations. "We’ve heard about it from e-mail we received, people who asked that we don’t remove Alan."
In any case, Daly said, Keyes’ job is safe. "We don’t have any plans to change the show. Alan Keyes offers a very insightful, critical analysis of international events and domestic news. That’s what viewers expect from him." (His show, "Making Sense," airs at 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday.)
Nidal Naji, a Jordanian-born resident of Dallas, "of Palestinian descent," who started the drive last month on www.petitiononline.com, says he expects more.
"He tries to mentally abuse the other side," Naji said of Keyes’ conduct with pro-Arab guests. "He tries to prosecute them."
Naji says he took his complaints to the Internet as a private citizen, without the official backing of any Arab-American organization. The on-line introduction to the petition drive states that "Mr. Keyes explicitly promotes his Zionist-biased views," claims "he is only doing so for his own political interests," and urges the network to "either remov[e] Alan Keyes of [sic] the air, or hav[e] him refrain from such practices."
As of Tuesday, Naji had collected 2,295 signatures, "from throughout the United States … across the spectrum. A lot of them are Arabs."
When the number reaches 3,000, he plans to present the petition to MSNBC. "My goal is not to remove him. My goal is for him to practice fair journalism," Naji said. "The way he is presenting his views is totally biased."
The anti-Keyes campaign has brought an on-line drive supporting him. "Alan Keyes is the ONLY journalist (apart from the FOX team) who sees the Palestinian Muslims for who they are: killers, liars, and terrorists, and expose their dirty tricks to the American public," according to a letter signed by Sheila Rodin-Novak of Chicago that is circulating in the Jewish community.
"Alan Keyes has been a friend, an advocate, a supporter of the State of Israel since the first day he was a public figure," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "He has always had a clear moral vision, a loud moral voice.
Foxman calls the drive for Keyes’ removal or silencing "contrary to the American tradition. "This is a democracy. In a democracy people express themselves."
Foxman says Keyes and many American Jews have parted ways on Keyes’ conservative positions on church-state issues and other domestic matters.
"We are supportive of his right to say what he says," Foxman said, "even if we disagree with him."