Despite decisively winning reelection, NBC Nightly News sustained its badgering and excoriating of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the fourth straight newscast with Thursday’s show including an interview that Netanyahu gave to chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell that featured numerous, obnoxious questions.
Ranging from chastising him for promising that he would be opposed to Palestinian state to wondering “[w]hy President Obama should trust you” after speaking out against the proposed nuclear deal with Iran, Mitchell made no effort to pin the strain of the U.S-Israel relationship on the President throughout her report.
Interim anchor Lester Holt kicked things off in the show’s first tease, telling viewers that Netanyahu was “backtracking from a last-minute campaign declaration that shook the world” that drew “swift reaction from the White House.”
Shortly thereafter, Holt began the segment by determining that the Israeli Prime Minister made “an equally stunning turn-a-bout today” after an “11th-hour campaign declaration that there would not be a Palestinian state on his watch” which “caught the world off-guard.”
Early on in her report, Mitchell began spinning for the White House by placing the Obama administration atop the high horse as it was their “furious White House response” that left Netanyahu “stunned” going into the interview.
Netanyahu explained his current stance on whether there should be a two-state solution, but Mitchell quickly shot back:
But you were reelected on the mandate, certainly Israeli voters, your supporters, believe you were reelected on a mandate against a two-state solution. That is the way the White House is interpreting it. They’re strongly considering not blocking a vote for statehood for Palestinians.
Continuing to pummel him, Mitchell quoted unfavorable responses to his reelection from The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and Time’s Joe Klein, who wrote that “he won because ran as a bigot.”
When Netanyahu tried to say that he’s “very proud to be the Prime Minister for all of Israel’s citizens,” Mitchell interrupted: “That's not the way it sounded on election day.” From there, she touted how “the White House wasn’t buying his explanation.”
Bringing up his March 3 speech to Congress, Mitchell again laid no blame on President Obama as it was Netanyahu who “[f]urther poison[ed] a relationship badly damaged” by the speech. In one final skewed question, Mitchell chided Netanyahu and wondered: “Why should President Obama trust you when you came to Congress to lobby against his negotiations with Iran?”
Meanwhile, the CBS Evening News highlighted a portion of Mitchell’s interview from her MSNBC show as part of a report by CBS News senior White House correspondent Major Garrett.
Following a segment on the weather, anchor Scott Pelley observed that “[c]hilly also describes the relationship between President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu” and how “jaws dropped today when Netanyahu reversed himself on issues that helped him win.”
In covering the White House reaction to Netanyahu’s campaign promises, Garrett said that they were “frustrated by Netanyahu's decision to play politics with the peace process” and “remained wary” of him on Thursday.
For the second straight evening, ABC’s World News Tonight barely covered the big story out of Israel. Just 24 seconds of the newscast was devoted to a news brief read by substitute anchor Amy Robach that mentioned Netanyahu’s “decisive victory” and his backtracking from “that last minute campaign promise.” Without mentioning NBC, MSNBC, or Mitchell, Robach read a quote from the interview concerning a two-state solution.
The relevant portions of the transcript from NBC Nightly News on March 19 are transcribed below.
NBC Nightly News
March 19, 2015
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Backtracking]
LESTER HOLT: On this Thursday night, backtracking from a last-minute campaign declaration that shook the world. Tonight, Andrea Mitchell gets the first interview with Benjamin Netanyahu. His stunning reversal on a Palestinian state and the swift reaction from the White House.
7:01 p.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Stunning Reversal]
HOLT: Days after his stunning, 11th hour campaign declaration that there would not be a Palestinian state on his watch, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu did an equally stunning turn-a-bout today. It came in a one-on-one interview with our Andrea Mitchell. That itself is making headlines tonight and drawing a strong response from the White House. Fresh off his election victory, Netanyahu tried to explain to Andrea about a series of statements he made that caught the world off guard, seemingly to dash hopes for a Palestinian peace agreement. From Jerusalem, Andrea tells us what he’s saying now.
ANDREA MITCHELL: It was Benjamin Netanyahu's last minute campaign promise when he thought that he might lose that set off the firestorm. Promising to prevent a Palestinian state, reversing decades of policy. Stunned by a furious White House reaction, today he tried to walk it back.
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I haven't changed my policy. I don’t want a one state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful, two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.
MITCHELL [TO NETANYAHU]: But you were reelected on the mandate, certainly Israeli voters, your supporters, believe you were reelected on a mandate against a two-state solution. That is the way the White House is interpreting it. They’re strongly considering not blocking a vote for statehood for Palestinians.
MITCHELL: But it was Netanyahu’s election day warning to supporters that Arab-Israelis were coming out in droves that analysts called “calamitous.” One wrote, “[h]e won because he ran as a bigot.” Netanyahu's response?
NETANYAHU: First of all, I'm very proud to be the Prime Minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Arabs and Jews alike.
MICTHELL [TO NETANYAHU]: That's not the way it sounded on election day.
NETANYAHU: Well, I wasn't trying to suppress the vote. I was calling on our voters to come out.
MITCHELL: Today, the White House wasn't buying his explanation.
MITCHELL: Further poisoning a relationship badly damaged to Netanyahu’s recent speech to Congress. [TO NETANYAHU] Why should President Obama trust you when you came to Congress to lobby against his negotiations with Iran?
NETANYAHU: I think there's an unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States. The president said that, I've said that and there’s –
MITCHELL [TO NETANYAHU]: But what about between you and Barack Obama?
NETANYAHU: Well, we have, we can have differences, but we have so many things that unite us.
MITCHELL: In fact, President Obama did call Prime Minister Netanyahu to congratulate him, but I'm told that the President said, in private, exactly what the administration has been saying in public, raising the point about their reassessment of policy because of what Netanyahu said about a Palestinian state and pointedly bringing up what Netanyahu said about Israeli-Arabs. So, this is still a relationship in trouble.