Was Ali Velshi Threatened With Firing, Bankruptcy by AJAM CEO?

By Chris Ariens 

In a front page story, the New York Times digs deeper into the troubles at Al Jazeera America. As we first reported last week, a $15 million lawsuit and the resignations of key executives, have roiled the 21-month old network. The Times’ John Koblin talks with network CEO Ehab Al Shihabi, who vows to keep his employees happy: “We are committed to raise the morale of our staff. If people are not happy, we will make them happy. We will invest in their morale.”

He also talks with Marcy McGinnis, who resigned her position at AJAM on Monday. McGinnis says Al Shihabi “runs everything, every decision is his decision. When all of the decisions land on one person who is not a journalist, it can lead to disgruntlement because there’s a feeling he doesn’t understand journalism.”

Koblin also talked to employees who preferred to remain anonymous. Five of them recounted a story about one of the network’s lead anchors, former CNN anchor Ali Velshi, who had some tough questions for Al Shihabi at a staff meeting in February:

Mr. Velshi’s line of questioning and his exchanges with Mr. Al Shihabi were particularly heated, according to five people present at the meeting.

Days later, when Mr. Velshi was not present, Mr. Al Shihabi threatened to sue Mr. Velshi and fire him, according to employees who said they heard him speaking openly in the newsroom.

“I’ll spend whatever I have to spend to bankrupt him in court,” Mr. Al Shihabi said, according to one employee who was there. Another heard Mr. Al Shihabi say, “He’s finished here.”

Mr. Velshi remains employed. In a statement, he said: “To hear that public threats of litigation and of bankrupting me have been made, if true, is disheartening and deeply troubling.” He declined to comment further.