As news broke of the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Monday morning, Today co-host Matt Lauer turned to correspondent Michelle Kosinski in London, who proclaimed Thatcher was "Known as the Iron Lady and for her conservative politics, she was also quite controversial during that time for reducing the power of the trade unions." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In a full report that followed, correspondent Martin Fletcher used similar language to describe the tenure of the British leader: "She was known as an iron lady, both loved and loathed....Consensus and compromise, they said, were not in her vocabulary. She'd won a bloody war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, took on Britain's powerful labor unions. She ignored IRA hunger strikes....Determined, dynamic, and deeply controversial, Thatcher leaves an indelible mark on the world's political landscape."
On Saturday's NBC Nightly News, during a report recounting the gathering of Christian pilgrims in Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations, correspondent Martin Fletcher relayed Palestinian complaints about Israel, and gave attention to the display of an anti-Israel publicity stunt set to coincide with the occasion taking advantage of a Christmas tree theme.
Andrea Mitchell on Friday and Martin Fletcher on Sunday filed reports on the NBC Nightly News filling in viewers on the Palestinian Authority's upcoming plan to go to the United Nations and seek recognition of statehood or at least U.N. membership as the U.N. convenes this week. Both reports ignored last week's prediction by the Palestinian Authority's envoy to the U.N. that Jews would be removed from a Palestinian state.
On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Martin Fletcher borrowed a line from Karl Marx as he explained the cause of violent riots in London: "It's a collision between two worlds here, the haves and the have-nots."
Fletcher played up the class warfare angle as he noted how in a wealthy part of the British capital, "This building, 106 New Bond Street, has just been sold for $42 million cash. And what's more, there were 22 cash bidders on the property." He then pointed out: "On an average wage, to buy a house it would take a Londoner 31 years."
Anchor Brian Williams introduced Fletcher's report by proclaiming: "...more on the anger and hopelessness that's fueling a kind of tale of two cities."
On Monday's NBC Today, correspondent Martin Fletcher reported on a deadly polar bear attack in Norway and explained: "The attack began at dawn with a bear looking for food....it's believed that with global warming, food is scarce. A post-mortem showed this polar bear was 110 pounds underweight, with almost no fat reserves. It must have been starving."
Fletcher began the report by declaring: "And today in the Arctic Circle, one of the most beautiful and hostile places on the planet, it's warmer than usual. There isn't much food for the polar bears. So when a group of British youngsters on a wildlife adventure trip set up camp for the night they became bait for a bear."
On Monday's Today show, NBC's Matt Lauer opened the show suggesting that Julian Assange was was being smeared by the Pentagon as the Today co-anchor teased: "And payback? The founder of WikiLeaks, the Web site that leaked classified war documents, briefly named in a rape case in Sweden. He says he's innocent. Those charges have been dropped and now he suggests it's all part of a Pentagon smear campaign today, Monday, August 23rd, 2010." However the Today show, never offered any evidence, other than Assange's claim, that the Pentagon was behind any of the charges.
NBC's Ann Curry, in introducing a Martin Fletcher story on Assange, posited: "Is the Pentagon targeting the founder of WikiLeaks for posting thousands of war documents online?" And while the the story did did air a clip of retired UK Colonel Richard Kemp blasting Assange for releasing the classified documents, Fletcher never presented any proof that the Pentagon was behind some sort of smear campaign.
It was a year ago this weekend that the Israeli military halted its three-week campaign, Operation Cast Lead, against Hamas militants in Gaza, during which Israel had responded to thousands of rockets and mortars launched from Gaza over several years. During Israel’s military campaign, on a number of major stories, many American television newscasts were more inclined to report accusations made by U.N. or Palestinian officials that the Israeli military had acted improperly than they were to update viewers after the military held investigations and released reports disputing the accusations made against it. At one point, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric went so far as to claim that the Israelis "may have used a banned weapon."
Below is a compilation of NewsBusters postings which document how the morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS reported a number of major stories from the Gaza War, highlighting examples of the media either engaging in distortion or omitting relevant information that would have cast Israel in a more favorable light, including several times when the broadcast and news networks even ignored reports issued by the Israeli military after it had taken time to investigate and dispute accusations made against its troops which had previously been reported by the media.
A year ago today, when U.N. officials accused the Israeli military of killing the driver of a vehicle delivering relief aid to Gaza during the Israeli campaign against Hamas, all the broadcast and news networks reported the accusation on January 8, 2009, noting the U.N.'s resulting cessation of relief aid deliveries. But, after the Israeli military conducted an investigation and charged that Hamas was responsible for the killing, very few of the shows that reported the initial charges by the U.N. updated viewers on this important development. An examination of the morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS – including American Morning and The Situation Room on CNN; as well as Fox and Friends, the Fox Report, and Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC; and PBS's NewsHour – between January 8 and January 12, 2009, found that all these shows – with the exception of ABC’s Good Morning America – reported on the truck driver’s death at least once, with nearly all shows also directly relaying the U.N.’s charge of Israeli military culpability.
But only CNN's The Situation Room, on the January 9 show, took the time to briefly inform viewers that the Israeli military had denied responsibility for the incident as correspondent Nic Robertson related: "[The U.N.] said that two of their workers were killed by Israeli tank and machine gun fire. Israeli Defense Forces say they have investigated it. Now, they say it wasn't them, which implies that it must have been Hamas."
In recent weeks, both the NBC Nightly News and ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson repeated charges that Israeli troops had witnessed the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians by fellow troops during the Gaza War. In recent days, the New York Times has informed its readers that, after investigation, the Israeli military concluded that the incendiary claims were untrue and that the soldiers in question had actually been repeating rumors rather than describing events they had witnessed. But so far, neither NBC nor ABC has updated their viewers on the story. And in the case of ABC, even though some of the allegations had already been debunked, as reported in the conservative Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, March 24, the original inaccurate accounts were still repeated two days later on the Thursday, March 26, World News.
Anchor Charles Gibson introduced the March 26 story: "There is a debate under way right now throughout Israel about soldiers, war and morality. Two months after the war in Gaza, Israeli soldiers are providing the accounts of what they saw and did on the battlefield. And some of those accounts are deeply disturbing."
After recounting that Palestinians had previously made accusations of war crimes against the Israeli military, ABC’s Simon McGregor-Wood continued: "The army denied it. And the public accepted the denial. But now, for the first time, disturbing evidence from Israeli soldiers themselves. Personal accounts from the front line, published word for word in the newspapers. From Aviv, a squad leader. "One of our officers saw someone walking on a road, an old woman. He sent people up onto the roof, and, using machine guns, they took her down."
On the March 19 NBC Nightly News, correspondent Martin Fletcher had similarly charged: "The Israeli army insisted during the war they were extra careful to avoid unnecessary damage and to protect Palestinian civilians. But today Israelis were shocked by reports of soldiers speaking out, saying they intentionally destroyed Palestinian property and killed civilians." (Complete transcripts follow)
Within the first few days of Israel’s campaign in Gaza, the Israeli military struck the Islamic University of Gaza, charging that the school served as a weapons research facility for Hamas. But while CNN, FNC and MSNBC all at some point reported on the school’s links to Hamas, CBS and NBC ignored the terrorist group’s connection in all its reports, while ABC vaguely noted that it was popular with Hamas students while still calling it a "non-military target." CBS, which had initially ignored the strike when it happened in late December, ran a report on the Friday, January 30, CBS Evening News in which correspondent Alan Pizzey, instead of informing viewers of the school’s reported role in terrorism, seemed more concerned that the damage would delay students from graduating, and relayed that "even the Islamic University" was bombed, suggesting it was an unreasonable target. After beginning the story focusing on a college-aged Palestinian man who was collecting explosive material to build bombs for revenge against Israel, Pizzey continued: "It will go in Qassam rockets – payback, the bomb maker says, for the destruction that has been part of his life since birth. Even the Islamic University was pounded by airstrikes, putting students' chances of graduating in jeopardy."
Then came an anti-Israel soundbite from one female student, named Nasser Barakat: "It's clear for us they want to attack everything, single thing in our life and every place in Gaza in order to destroy the whole community – not only the fighters, but the whole community."
By contrast, on December 29, during the 9:00 hour of MSNBC News Live, correspondent Tom Aspell reported: "Starting in the early hours of this morning, [the Israelis] attacked a building belonging to the Islamic University inside the Gaza Strip. The Israelis saying that the Hamas activists had been using it as a laboratory to develop weapons."
On the January 1 CBS Evening News, correspondent Mark Phillips took out of context an Israeli statement that "there is no humanitarian crisis" in Gaza and paired it with images of suffering Palestinian children, as if to blatantly embarrass the Israelis and make it appear that they were in denial of or indifferent to civilians who had been injured. After showing a clip of Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni talking about keeping "pressure on the extremists like Hamas," made during her trip to France, Phillips continued: "But the pressure is not just being felt by Hamas extremists. However well they are aimed, the bombs kill and injure the innocents as well." Pairing a voiceover of himself with heartwrenching clips of Palestinian children who are either injured or who have terrified facial expressions, Phillips concluded: "Israel says there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Mark Phillips, CBS News, Ashdod."
One bright spot last week in CBS’s coverage of the war between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas came on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News as correspondent Richard Roth filed a story exploring Israeli life under a "siege mentality." Roth: " Spend a while in earshot of an air raid siren or cramped in a shelter, and it's hard not to have some sympathy. Or, if you want to understand what pushed Israelis past their limit, they'll tell you, just take a look at the numbers. Since the first one almost eight years ago, the army says more than 11,000 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel."
But CBS was only starting to catch up with NBC, which had previously devoted two full stories to the situation in Sderot, Israel. After the Sunday, January 5, NBC Nightly News showed the first report, which was previously documented by Newsbusters, on Monday, January 5, correspondent Martin Fletcher filed a second piece for the show, as he spent time with a firefighter in Sderot who had been one of the Israeli settlers forced by the Israeli government to leave Gaza in 2005 in an attempt to make peace with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Fletcher noted the failure of Israel’s withdrawal: "Israel gave the land back to the Palestinians, hoping for peace. It didn't happen. The conflict continued. And now rockets are fired from his old home."
Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has long been a pro-Palestinian activist and critic of Israel, and who, according to an article released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), once expressed agreement with the 9/11 attacks which he considered to be a justified attack on civilians, has been seen numerous times in the last couple of weeks on broadcast network news shows – primarily on CBS and NBC. Without mentioning his extreme views, anchors and correspondents have treated him as a trustworthy source, as if he were a neutral foreign observer, regarding civilian casualties arriving at Shifa Hospital in Gaza amid the Israeli campaign against Hamas. But, according to CAMERA: "When asked by Dagbladet (a Norwegian publication) if he supported the terrorist attack on the U.S., he replied: 'Terror is a bad weapon, but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned.' (Sept. 30, 2001)"
The article "Norwegian Doctors in Gaza: Objective Observers or Partisan Propagandists?" by Ricki Hollander, can be found here.
On the January 5 The Early Show, correspondent Mark Phillips cited Gilbert’s charges that Israel was conducting an "all-out war against civilians" as "compelling evidence" contradicting "repeated claims by Israelis that civilians are not being targeted." Phillips: "Despite repeated claims by the Israelis that civilians are not being targeted and that they are even being warned by leaflets and phone calls to stay away from target sites, the dead and injured continue to be brought into Gaza's overrun hospitals. And the evidence provided by foreign doctors in Gaza is compelling." Then came a clip of Gilbert: "So anybody who tries to portray this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying. This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with the numbers."
On Sunday’s NBC Nightly News, correspondent Martin Fletcher gave rare attention to the plight of Israelis who live in the towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, which have for years been frequent targets of rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas because of their relative proximity to the Gaza Strip. Devoting an entire report to the issue in which he informed viewers of how many years the rocket attacks have spanned over, Fletcher began: "This is why Israel invaded Gaza. Thirteen more rockets hit the town of Sderot today. Since April 2001, 5,000 rockets have hit in and around the town." After showing a clip of a boy named Angel Yamine expressing his fear of the Hamas rockets, Fletcher continued: "The threat to Israeli citizens from Hamas rockets is still very real. This is David and Panina Yamine in Ashkelon. They can't stop watching the war. They live in fear, afraid of rocket attacks."
Then came a soundbite of Angel's mother Panina: "Where you can live like this? Eight years people live like that. It's not life."
Apparently it's not just the American press corp that has fallen head over heels for Barack Obama. On Wednesday night's "Hardball," NBC News' Martin Fletcher revealed the quote that "went rushing around the media" in Israel was that a Shimon Peres female assistant remarked of Obama, "What a hunk!"
When asked by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, on the July 23 "Hardball," to give his assessment of the media coverage given to Obama in Israel, Fletcher dropped the following nugget:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you Martin for a final question there, as Barack Obama leaves the Middle East. What's the general assessment of the people over there, in terms of news coverage? Has he shown himself to be a commander-in-chief, potentially?