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Al Jazeera America, the sister news channel analog of the venerable Al Jazeera English channel, has suspended its general counsel, David W. Harleston, after questions were raised about his qualifications to practice law.
Mr. Harleston’s is another high level blow to AJAM. His arrival to the news channel took place during a time when the company was suffering internal turmoil amid staff complaints of a culture of anti-Semitism and sexism.
AJAM said that it suspended Mr. Harleston last week when it received an inquiry from the New York Times, according to the Wall Steet Journal. Apparently, NYT could find no record of Mr. Harleston's license to practice law in New York State -- or any of the U.S. jurisdictions for that matter.
In addition to suspending Harleston, AJAM has hired outside counsel Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP to investigate the matter. CEO Al Anstey was quick to jump to action when this problem first came to light." I take very seriously any potential issue that could jeopardize the reputation and integrity of AJAM."
Before being named the CEO of Al Jazeera America, Anstey headed the more staid and established Al Jazeera English. Although Al Jazeera Media Network made no comment as to why the change was made, the change was a little too coincidental for most onlookers.
Allegations had seeped through the seems of a culture of anti-Americanism, sexism, and anti-Jewish sentiment. It was Harleston himself that guided the departure of Anstey's predecessor amidst the controversy. The arrival of Anstey was been regarded by most as a quick response to inject much needed legitimacy back into the news company. Thus, Anstey is all but obligated to move swiftly and make a showing in light of the Harleston allegations. The irony is noteworthy: You're suspending the guy who may have indirectly helped you get your job.
The Wall Street Journal attempted to contact both Mr. Harleston and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP for comment; and neither one responded. Attempts to reach Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP were also made -- a company Harleston's biography says he previously worked for -- but to no avail. The New York Times notes that it found records of Mr. Harleston passing the NY bar in 1986, but did not find his license to practice law. This either means that he did not finish his application, or he did not pass the state's character and fitness review.