The Corruption of Karl Penhaul


Karl Penhaul was once the toast of CNN. From the Colombian drug wars to Gaza his style of war reporting was uncompromising, yelling rather than speaking truth to power. He was on a Free Gaza boat rammed by the Israelis, he lived with FARC guerrilla columns and he even helped free a hostage. In contrast, short selling is a particularly nasty backroom of the stock market. In essence you try to make money when the value of the shares in a company are falling. That much is legal. The much more questionable practice is to actively try to drive share prices down to encourage a take over or replace the management. Elon Musk and many others have called for the whole practice to be made illegal. One way in which you can drive a share price down is by placing articles in the media with false or misleading information about the company. Karl Penhaul has allegedly been involved in this practice and is under active investigation according to sources close to a current case. His fall from grace has been such that many are now seeing the earlier scandals in his career in a new light. What was once seen as journalistic bravery is now questioned. Was he always on the take?

Former Journalist

Penhaul is currently marooned in Spain, trying to get back to his home in the UK. His LinkedIn page makes clear that he has given up journalism, indeed he has produced no meaningful journalism since he left Al Jazeera in 2018. His reputation at Al Jazeera was as an unpleasant and arrogant show boater. He now describes himself on social media as a “former multi-format journalist…looking to use his well-crafted communications skills to pivot into other sectors of strategic communication, business, or corporate-community relations.”

No-Fly List

Penhaul was placed on a US no-fly list on or before January 2014. Human Rights groups defended him and claimed that he had been put on the list because of his coverage of the war on drugs. His coverage of the conflict had been consistently pro-FARC and anti-US. But there may have been deeper reasons for the US to take this action. A blogpost has claimed that Mr. Penhaul did not inform US authorities of planned protests against former US President George W. Bush’s visit to Colombia which could have endangered the life of the President. Or it might not have been about Colombia at all.

Gaza and Hamas

In 2008 Penhaul travelled on one of the Free Gaza Movement blockade busting trips to Israel while covering the conflict in Gaza. The Free Gaza Movement is widely seen as a front for Hamas which is designated as a terrorist organisation and is supported by Iran. Penhaul was responsible for CNN running a fake video of an atrocity:

“A little more investigation determined that one of the doctors in the video is notorious terrorist apologist Mads Gilbert. The older brother, meanwhile, is no mere “free-lance cameraman” but the owner of a business that hosts Internet web sites for Hamas. In other words, this looks an awful attempt at propaganda that only a “professional” media outlet with a pre-existing animus to Israel would put on the air without any checking of sources.”

CNN pulled the video from its rotation and its web site, without any explanation or retraction. A Facebook community page for “Karl Penhaul” has multiple controversial “Pages liked by this Page”, including Neo-Nazi white supremacist German punk bands, support for an international correspondent fired from the CNN for an antisemitic Tweet and support for Scot Stedeford who was part of the Aryan Republican Army, a white supremacist terrorist organisation. An unclassified Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) document dated from 2011 named Penhaul in connection with records pertaining to Iran-related communication. It might have been failing to inform the authorities of a plot against the President of the United States or broadcasting propaganda on behalf of Iranian backed terror groups that got Penhaul onto a no-fly list.

FARC Terrorists

But if Colombian terrorist links were the cause of Penhaul no longer being welcomed into the land of the free United then it was not the content of his reports but rather the nature of the relationships that he developed with a number of key FARC leaders and his role as a propagandist that might have been the problem.

In 2011 he lived for eight days in the eastern plains with one of the FARC guerrilla columns led by ‘Mono Jojoy’. He was later embedded with the Compañia Marquetalia, a unit of the Eastern Bloc formed after Mono JoJoy was killed. Both reports look like adverts for the guerrilla’s way of life. There are also major questions about his relationship with the FARC commander José Benito Cabrera, alias ‘Fabián Ramírez’. In 2012 he did a prime time interview with this terrorist leader.  “Fabian Ramirez” was responsible for “all aspects of the drug trade for the Southern Bloc” and helped implement policies regulating drug trafficking, production and taxing for the entire FARC, killing many people who broke the rules.” The broadcast was like an election film. Was he paid off for these films in the same way that he is allegedly being paid off to short sell today?

Even his 2001 involvement in the release of a hostage, has come under fire. The oil company for which the hostage worked paid a $1m ransom. Penhaul was criticised in the Columbia Journalism Review because he sold “exclusive” FARC friendly stories to Daily Record, the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle and video to CNN and the BBC on the back of the ransom payment which he helped enable.

The end at CNN

Penhaul seems to have become progressively unemployable. In 2012 he joined a new Spanish Language cable network, Univision, but departed after five months. In June 2015, he was fired as a freelancer by CNN after a series of tweets calling Donald Trump a Racist. On a CNN site, Francois Chaurillione, commented: “That’s wonderful news, he can go back to central America reporting on heroine, cocaine, and marijuana then getting high on it after he’s done…lol”. And, as noted already, he left Al Jazeera under a cloud in 2018.

Either Karl Penhaul is a once great journalist who has fallen on hard times and is unable to get a proper job so he is taking speculators’ money to destroy companies.  Or he was on the take all along but has now shifted from being a paid propagandist for the revolution to being just another paid hack for hire by the city. But if he is breaking the law it might be more than just a No-Fly list this time.