Al Jazeera, the Middle East-based news outfit now fighting to prove itself as a legitimate operation in the U.S., hosted a launch party for its Al Jazeera America network in New York City Thursday night. And guess who was inside?

We were.

Al Jazeera hasn’t had the strongest reputation in America, mostly because the network became known for broadcasting lengthy speeches by Osama Bin Laden and videos from Al-Qaeda following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s now eyed by Americans with a degree of suspicion, though executives at the outlet brands itself as a place for “unbiased, fact-based reporting that doesn’t have a partisan or other point of view.”

The reputation persists.

Understandably, then, there are assumptions that come with attending a launch party for Al Jazeera America. But what was it really like?

No, it wasn’t held at the “Ground Zero Mosque” — it was hosted at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

 

Look. Pulled pork was served.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

Private party. Open bar.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

Former CNN anchor, now a special contributor for AJA, Soledad O’Brien was there.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

O’Brien told TheBlaze that she’s happy to be working at AJA where she’s producing 8 to 10-minute long documentaries. Asked if she was concerned about the network’s reputation in America, she said:

“To me, I think every network has to prove itself. They have to prove to their audience that they’re going to do a good job, that they’re going to be reliable, that they’re going to tell a new story fairly and really show — you say both sides but I think often there are five of six sides of a story. So, I think that every network is going to be judged that way and people really should see — if they want to see real journalism — to watch the network and judge for themselves.”

As for whether O’Brien will be doing any of the confrontational interviews she was known for doing at CNN, she said maybe. “Listen, everyone who works with me knows, whether we’re doing documentaries or we’re doing live anchoring, knows that if you’re bullshitting me, I’m going to call you on it,” she said. “That’s the kind of reporter I am. … If I think someone’s lying to my face, I’m going to call them on it.”

Find out what O’Brien had to say about CNN, where she hosted a morning show before it was canceled in March, over at TheBlaze Blog

 

AJA President Kate O’Brian was also there– on crutches because she fell on a New York sidewalk.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

 

American Idol winner Jennifer Hudson performed.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

 

This package was given to guests on the way out.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

 

It was just a pie.
Inside The Al Jazeera America Launch Party

Credit: TheBlaze/Eddie Scarry

And there you have it. That was the relatively tame party.

The elephant in the room didn’t go unnoticed, however. Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network Mostefa Souag acknowledged in prepared remarks the reputation Al Jazeera has in the U.S.

“I am extremely grateful to the media also that has covered Al Jazeera America so extensively over the last nine months,” Souag said. “Those who have reported and commented on what we have been doing have demanded facts and answers. We respect appreciate and welcome feedback and hope it will continue. Regardless of how they perceive Al Jazeera. We like you to tell us our good things and our bad things. It’s okay. That’s the way we learn. There is still more to do.”

Follow Eddie Scarry (@eScarry) on Twitter.