Between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC slowly backed away from blindly touting the false claims from the Palestinian Health Ministry (read: Hamas) that Israel was behind a rocket attack on a Gaza hospital (often labeled a deadly “blast” or “explosion), if only because their President in Joe Biden said so.
Despite that, they nonetheless kept the Hamas propaganda with plenty of sob stories about how Israelis were cruelly mowing children down with airstrikes.
On both counts, CBS’s flagship shows CBS Evening News and CBS Mornings were pitiful.
On the former, anchor Norah O’Donnell warned “[t]ensions are rising in the Middle East after that deadly hospital explosion in Gaza” as American and Israeli intelligence conclusions that Islamic Jihad was responsible have “done little to tamp down the anger sweeping across the region.”
Foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata touted the “massive and growing anger for the explosion” and, after walking through the evidence that Israel wasn’t responsible, foreign correspondent Imtiaz Tyab maintained his penchant of siding with Hamas.
Tyab fretted “[t]he scale of the devastation here is hard to fathom” as he painted a slanted picture and even touted an insinuation from the doctor at the hospital that it was an Israeli target (click “expand”):
TYAB: The scale of the devastation here is hard to fathom, as those with missing loved ones try to make sense of it all. This woman says: “Dad, mom, please answer me.” The aftermath of the massive explosions at the Al-Ahli Hospital is still a smoking wreck. What should have been a safe haven has turned into a living nightmare. “We left our home to come here,” this woman says. “We thought it would be safe, but then we got bombed.” The Anglican Church, which runs the hospital, has said it was struck before by an Israeli rocket just four days earlier, injuring four members of staff. Speaking to CBS News, Fadel Naim, a doctor at Al-Ahli, says Israel’s army sent a warning to evacuate the facility less than 48 hours before that explosion.
DR. FADEL NAIM: They called our medical director, and they told him, we warned you yesterday with two rockets. Why are you still working in the hospital? Why didn’t you evacuate the hospital?
TYAB: Hundreds of people have been killed in the blast. There are so many dead, they’re running out of body bags. “There were young children whose legs were blown off,” this man says. “I just can’t unsee it.” The explosion and its deadly aftermath has triggered a fury across the Middle East not seen in years....[F]ew here believe the President and say Israel is squarely responsible for the explosion, as well as the widespread misery unfolding in Gaza, including a strike tonight on the building just yards from another hospital....[W]ith anger only spreading across the region, more will need to be done[.]
For a profession that seethes with anger when Americans refuse to fall in line with their world view, the press seem intent and accepting of millions in the Middle East believing in a lie.
CBS’s Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan shrugged at this reality by stating that Arabs believe the U.S. views their lives as less worthy than Israelis (click “expand”):
O’DONNELL: For more on this extraordinary visit, let’s turn to CBS’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Brennan. All right, Margaret, I look at those protests in the street across the Middle East and I wonder, what is President Biden saying to some of these Arab leaders? Is he sharing that intelligence? What’s their reaction?
BRENNAN: Yes and the President spoke on that flight back with Egypt’s president about all of this. But keep in mind the U.S. has a credibility problem in this region of the world when it comes to U.S. intelligence conclusions. And President Biden referenced today the mistakes made by the U.S. after 9/11, when decisions were made too swiftly and based on rage and that is likely a reference to the invasion of Iraq. He did call for respect for the law of armed conflict and to minimize impact on civilians. But, Norah, he refrained from calling for a cease-fire. In fact, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. resolution to that effect earlier today. Given that there have now been 11 days of bombing of Gaza by Israel, with thousands killed, there is a perception in Arab countries that this looks like the U.S. is treating Palestinian lives differently than Israeli lives.
By Thursday’s CBS Mornings, the tone shifted towards sympathy and scorn for Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets. Co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King fretted “[t]he crisis in Gaza worsen[ed]” with Israel’s “the continued bombing campaign” and “escalating violence” amid “[p]rotesters accus[ing] Israel of indiscriminate killing”.
Tyab repeated Hamas propaganda about Palestinian death counts and painting Israel as a ruthless aggressor attacking babies, hospitals, and schools (click “expand”):
Well, despite U.S. intelligence suggesting the Israeli military was not responsible for the deadly explosion at Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital and Israel’s own denials, fury across the Middle East is only growing as the death toll in Gaza continues to climb. This morning, the Palestinian Ministry of Health says 3,785 Palestinians have been killed since the war began just 12 days ago. Israel’s strikes on Gaza are only intensifying. This time, a residential building was hit just yards from another hospital. The Al-Quds Hospital as civilians and medical staff take cover inside. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, over the past 24 hours, 678 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes, mostly women and children., including at the Northern Jabalia Refugee Camp as rescuers desperately try to pull the youngest survivors from under the rubble.
Hundreds are reported to have been killed in the explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital on Tuesday, potentially making it the single biggest loss of life in Gaza in all the five wars with Israel over the past 16 years. There are so many dead, they are running out of body bags. “There were young children whose legs were blown off,” this man says. “I had to carry their bodies.” [PROTESTERS CHANTING] In the occupied West Bank, fury is only growing. At a protest in Ramallah, Palestinian officials say Israeli forces shot two Palestinian teenagers dead. [PROTESTERS CHANTING] President Biden had hoped his visit to Israel would prevent a wider conflict in the region, but tensions only seem to be rising over Israel’s war in Gaza and over the warring narratives of what happened at the Al-Ahli Hospital. [PROTESTERS CHANTING] Across the Middle East, thousands have filled the streets to put the blame squarely on Israel, despite U.S. and Israeli officials saying they have evidence it was not Israel’s fault.
Tyab later wrapped his report by implicitly chiding the U.S. for wanting to give more aid to Israel than Hamas in the Gaza Strip:
[G]iven the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, it’s really nowhere near enough aid, and although President Biden has promised $100 million in support to Palestinians across Gaza and the West Bank, it is dwarfed by the $10 billion in military assistance being earmarked for Israel[.]
Despite the facts showing Israel didn’t fire the rocket at the al-Ahli hospital, foreign correspondent Holly Williams still asked a former IDF official: “If Israel did hit a hospital with an airstrike, how damaging would that be for Israel?”
Ofit Shala shot back: “But Israel didn’t. I don’t want to discuss this hypothetically, because we didn’t.”
Over on NBC, Nightly News anchor Lester Holt began Thursday’s show by huffing “protests” were “rag[ing]...after that deadly hospital explosion” and “deadly aftermath” with those who’ve seen “pictures of children in Gaza being rescued from the rubble of air strikes only hardening positions.”
Holt still made sure to prop up Biden, bragging he stood with Israelis “in the face of tragedy” despite “the diplomatic grounds shifting beneath [his] feet”.
After citing the U.S. intelligence proving the fire came from a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket, Holt fretted that “[t]he carnage” and death toll (which is in doubt) “loomed over” Biden’s “critical visit.”
Chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel similarly saw no problem with the spread of disinformation and instead was sympathetic (click “expand”):
ENGEL: This is the explosion that has shaken the Middle East, new video shows that deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza City that reportedly killed hundreds and sparked protests....The United States pulled out of its wars in the Middle East but could now be heading back into one. In the West Bank, Palestinians today dragged out the barricades and slung rocks at Israeli soldiers. There weren’t many, mostly teenagers. Israeli troops kept their distance but when stone throwers got too close, the soldiers opened fire, sending medical crews rushing in....[A] new generation of Palestinians is taking to the streets. While Israel and Hamas are blaming each other for the hospital explosion, a new Palestinian uprising could be starting. Today, our crew filmed at the Gaza hospital site and saw families collecting what they could from the debris amid charred cars and backpacks and bags on the ground.
GAZAN: Disaster, disaster. Impact on children, on women.
ENGEL: “Suddenly there were lights in the sky and when we looked up, a missile fell,” this man says. “I covered my face while friends close to me were killed.” “This place was a safe haven for women and children who fled Israeli shelling near the hospital," this doctor says. “Children were torn to pieces.” Other hospitals in Gaza already running low on supplies are now struggling to keep up.
AL ALHI HOSPITAL DR. GHASSAN ABU SITTAH: These wounded all have needed intensive care facilities and ventilators. Water was running out before I left and the electricity now has started to — to — to run out. [SCREEN WIPE] The generators were running out of diesel.
NBC’s Today on Thursday took a page from CBS. Co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb warned of “Israel launching new attacks” as “tensions rise over the explosion at a Gaza hospital” while Engel painted Israel as disingenuous by halting strikes until Biden left and promoted a Palestinian claim that Israel targeted a U.N. school (often a hotbed for Hamas staging).
He had sob story footage with “our crew witness[ing] an Israeli air strike on an apartment building” that supposedly left a baby dead.
NBC News NOW anchor Tom Llamas also tried to play it both sides by talking up “[h]eartbreaking stories from the explosion that Palestinian officials say killed hundreds” and new “video posted beforehand by a Palestinian artist who went to the hospital to entertain children” before he was supposedly killed.
Llamas even showed a second video of a child trapped in a collapsed building because “it’s very impactful” and illustrated “the realities of this very harsh war as the bombings continue on both sides.”
ABC’s World News Tonight anchor David Muir repeatedly huffed about “the horror” and “deadly strike” at the hospital with “[h]undreds feared dead” and emphasized the facts, but was resigned to how “many across the region do not believe that.” Muir doubled down with chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz (click “expand”):
MUIR: [B]ut of course, also siding with Israel when it comes to this hospital in Gaza, saying it appeared to be a militant rocket that hit the hospital from inside Gaza. But Martha, you and I have been talking about this, this White House knows the anger across the region, many are simply not going to believe this.
RADDATZ: That’s exactly right, David. It is an enormous problem. The President knows that emotions are high, anger is intense, especially after the hospital blast, and the administration worries that Israel’s claims and intentions simply will not be believed, that there is little anyone can do about that, as civilian casualties rise.
Having been a Hamas tool at times, chief foreign correspondent Ian Pannell deserves credit as he had a full segment with a step-by-step breakdown from ABC News analyst Steve Gaynard. However, he admitted “[w]hatever the truth of the matter, people are not in the mood to listen.”
Pannell rehashed this on Good Morning America, but threw in this line alongside his description of the less-severe-than-advertised hospital parking lot fire as “catastrophic”: “Just hours ago, Palestinians seen digging desperately to rescue children buried in the rubble of their bedroom, bombed as they slept.”
To see the relevant transcripts from October 18, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC). And, fo the relevant transcripts from October 19, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).