From CNN’s “The Situation Room” today:
WOLF BLITZER. CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now, the man who conducted that interview with the president of the United States, Hisham Melhem. He’s the Washington bureau chief of Al Arabiya, and also a good old friend.
Hisham, congratulations on getting this.
HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, Al ARABIYA: Thank you.
BLITZER: How did you get the first sitting television interview with the new president of the United States?
MELHEM: I guess sheer luck and dogged work. You know, I applied like everybody else and trying to push when he was elected. Also, I pushed really hard after I realized that he was going to address the Muslim world during his first 100 days in office.
And I think a combination of things happened: Gaza, the appointment of George Mitchell, the closing of Guantanamo. And I think there was a debate over the weekend at the White House that — whether the president should give an interview at this time to the Arab and Muslim world.
And then I was told, much to my own gratification, that when the debate was over about the interview, there was no debate about to whom he should give it.
BLITZER: And they decided Al Arabiya, which is an Arabic language television station seen throughout the Middle East, that was the place to go as opposed to Al Jazeera, for example?
MELHEM: Well, I think — I mean, I’d like to take some credit myself, but also I think they believe that we give them a fair play. I mean, they — I mean, definitely I know the difference between being critical and being hostile, definitely can be critical and do your job professionally.
And we have credibility. People watch us. And we don’t have an agenda.
And I think they realized that it will be seen — that we will treat it credibly.