ABC, CBS Skip Over Criticism of John Kerry’s Middle East Trip, NBC Provides Cover

On Tuesday, July 29, NBC Nightly News was the only network evening newscast to highlight criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry following his inability to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. 

While CBS and ABC ignored the criticism of Secretary Kerry, Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, did her best to cast the Secretary of State as a victim of anonymous Israeli criticism. During a press conference earlier in the day, Mitchell sympathetically asked Kerry if such criticism was “hurting your ability to be a mediator here, to have Israel -- with these blind quotes from Israeli officials attacking you so vociferously?” [See video below.] 

Nightly News anchor Brian Williams introduced the report by fretting how “of all things, tempers have now flared among allies, the U.S. and Israel specifically. Secretary of State John Kerry is getting criticized for how he went about trying to get both Israel and Hamas to cease-fire. Today he hit back.” 

As the report continued, Mitchell played up how during a speech today “the president was not asked about Israel today, but if he had been, aides say he was prepared to vigorously defend his Secretary of State.” 

Even though NBC’s Nightly News did its best to cast doubt on Kerry’s critics, it is the only network evening newscast to even acknowledge that such skepticism exists. Prior to July 29, the “big three” have failed to evaluate whether or not Kerry’s visit to the Middle East last week helped or hindered peace talks. Instead, the “big three” networks did their best to sympathize with the huge task Kerry was facing as he met with officials from both sides of the conflict. 

On July 25, Brian Williams lamented how “despite this talk of a possible brief humanitarian pause in the fighting overnight U.S. time, John Kerry has largely come up empty handed tonight in the Middle East.” Striking a similar tone, on July 26 weekend Nightly News anchor Lester Holt bemoaned how “with the situation unraveling in Libya tonight and still no permanent cease-fire in the latest Gaza-Israel conflict, the list of foreign policy headaches facing the Obama White House continues to mount.”

During the July 21 CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley hyped the difficult task for Kerry by insisting that “Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo tonight to try to arrange a cease-fire. In the understatement of the day a senior official said it won`t be easy.” 

That same night, during ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer, reporter Alex Marquardt made sure to inform viewers how “just a few hours ago Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo to work with regional allies on a cease-fire deal. Both sides here say they want one, but neither side showing any willingness to compromise.” On July 23rd, Marquardt noted that “Secretary of State John Kerry spent the day in Israel, pushing a cease-fire deal, but has left again tonight empty handed." 

See relevant transcript below. 


NBC

NBC Nightly News 

July 29, 2014 

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And of all things, tempers have now flared among allies, the U.S. and Israel specifically. Secretary of State John Kerry is getting criticized for how he went about trying to get both Israel and Hamas to cease-fire. Today he hit back. We get our report tonight from NBC's Andrea Mitchell. 

ANDREA MITCHELL: John Kerry after a week of nonstop negotiating for a cease-fire. In Cairo, Israel, the West Bank, Paris. Back home without a cease-fire. And battered in the Israeli press. 

JOHN KERRY: I will not take a second seat to anybody in my friendship or my devotion for the protection of the state of Israel. 

MITCHELL: The attacks are everywhere. One leading columnist quoting very senior officials in Jerusalem, calling Kerry's cease-fire proposal a strategic terrorist attack. Another writing that if the war escalates, “Kerry will be responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled.” Is it hurting your ability to be a mediator here, to have Israel -- with these blind quotes from Israeli officials attacking you so vociferously?

KERRY: Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said to me, can you try to get a humanitarian cease-fire for this period of time. Either I take his commitment at face value or someone is playing a different game here, and I hope that's not fact. 

MITCHELL: Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. denies government leaks to undermine Kerry. 

RON DERMER: I directly spoke to the prime minister who told me to make clear that the attacks on Secretary Kerry are unwarranted.

MITCHELL: The blowup comes at a tense time. Two phone calls from President Obama to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the last week, expressing serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths. Kerry was overheard last week sarcastically calling Israel bombing a hell of a pinpoint operation. And later accusing Israel's cabinet of sabotaging his negotiations. 

KERRY: There's always mischief from people who oppose certain things. 

MITCHELL: The president was not asked about Israel today, but if he had been, aides say he was prepared to vigorously defend his Secretary of State.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.